Today the House Finance committee approved their version of the state budget by a vote of 15-11. The total DHHS budget was reduced by $212 million in total funds from the governor’s spending recommendation. The general fund reduction was $128 million (from the governor’s budget).
The Bureau’s of Developmental Services and Elderly and Adult Services took the brunt of the reductions. For example, the Finance committee cut about $10 million in spending from BDS’ current FY ’15 budget. When compared to what the governor recommended, BDS is cut by about $26 million in general funds.
In addition, rather than “zero fund” Family Supports and Services, as was the original plan, the committee made the following reductions across BDS:
All of the above programs have a 50-50 Medicaid match (except Family Supports and Services) so the reduction is doubled.
In another reversal from a pervious action, the committee is assuming that the three BDS Medicaid Waivers and Early Intervention will be rolled into managed care in the second year of the biennium (FY ’17.) This has reduced the BDS budget even further. It is important to note that DHHS has told the Legislature this is an extremely risky policy decision and that it is highly unlikely that Step 2 Phase 3 will be implemented in the next biennium.
What does this mean and why did it happen?
The House Finance committee by their action today affirmed the extremist cuts recommended by Division III to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). In an effort to hide from the public the consequences of their actions the committee spoke about increased spending numbers in the DHHS budget. This is largely the result of additional federal dollars flowing to NH because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). There is a small increase in general fund spending, largely because of the ACA and the hospital and mental health lawsuits.
The chairman of the Finance committee said today that money was taken from the disabled and shifted to those with mental illness because of the federal lawsuit. The majority of the House Finance committee is unwilling to raise revenue to pay for the lawsuits thus spending was reduced in other areas such as the BDS and BEAS budgets.
The Finance committee has endorsed: the return of the DD, ABD waitlists, the elimination of any funding for the IHS waitlist, cuts to non-Medicaid Family Supports and other reductions in BDS.
The committee retained a 50% reduction in non-Medicaid services for seniors such as Meals on Wheels, Transportation and the elimination of the ServiceLink program.
The good news is that the Finance committee came to its senses and restored one of the most extreme and cruel actions this session. This was the elimination of no less than 20 benefits under the Medicaid state plan. The budget no longer includes a directive from the Legislature to DHHS requiring the agency to inform CMS that NH Medicaid will be a barebones program. These include items such as ambulance services, wheelchair van services, audiology services, private duty nursing, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, personal care and many others.
The above action would have saved about $9 million dollars for the state of NH and shift those costs to the poor, disabled and frail citizens who depend on these services.
Most if not all of these cuts could be restored if the Legislature would meet the Governor half way on her revenue estimates or half way on her tobacco tax increase. But that’s not going to happen, at least not right now. It is important to remember that in 2011, the State Senate spent about $24 million more in general funds than the House did within BDS. Those funds eventually became law. The House budget is the low point in this process and the above cuts will not stand in June.
However, before the budget even reaches the Senate, on April 1, there will be efforts on floor of the NH House to restore the cuts mentioned above. All who care about these programs should attend the House session and/or let their own House Representatives know that you as a constituent support the efforts to restore funding to these wise investments in our stare and its people.
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