Families with medically fragile children, advocates for people with disabilities and a host of other advocates convened on the Senate Finance Committee on Monday to urge its rejection of the House-passed budget. The latest version of next year’s spending plan would cut $431 million from the state health department, resulting in an estimated $1.6 billion cut when federal matching dollars are taken into account. These types of heartbreaking please have become an annual ritual, as the state has dealt with chronic budget shortfalls for the better part of the last decade. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte was there:
Kathryne Hart brought her 2-year-old son Carter to the hearing. At four months old, he was diagnosed with a severe epilepsy syndrome that can cause hundreds of seizures on some days. He’s unable to crawl, sit, roll over or eat on his own and requires constant care. Hart, a Baton Rouge resident who works at a chemical plant, said private insurance doesn’t cover all the necessities required for Carter’s care, such as the $800 a month her family spends on a special feeding formula. Her family gets some services through a Medicaid program for medically-fragile children, but Hart said she’s scaled back some of those services because her family can’t afford a cost-share enacted during a prior round of cuts. Carter is in the queue for another program, but Hart said the waiting list is 12 years. “We and so many families like ours caring for angels need help,” Hart said. “Please invest in families.”
While some lawmakers described the cuts as unacceptable, others chalked them up to scare tactics and evoked a usual scapegoat for their inaction or inability to serve the constituents of the state.
“We don’t know if we’re going to come up short yet,” said Sen. Bodi White, R-Central. He said the state should instead look to cost savings from able-bodied Medicaid recipients, such as copays, to help cover the costs. “It’s something we’ve got to look at before we get into cutting everything,” he said.
President moves to rescind CHIP funds
President Donald Trump is bowing to pressure from conservative lawmakers by cutting more than $15 billion, almost half of which will come from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, in previously allocated spending through a little known budget process called rescission. The law has not been used in almost 20 years, but Trump sees it as a way to counter angst over the recently passed $1.3 trillion budget bill the president signed in March. The Washington Post’s Damian Paletta and Erica Werner outline what the cuts will do to the popular program.
The proposed cuts to CHIP would come in part from cutting $5 billion from the Children’s Health Insurance Fund, to help reimburse states for certain expenses. But the White House said the ability to use this money expired in September, meaning it can’t be legally used, even as it remains on the government’s balance sheet. … The White House’s other proposed cut to CHIP is a $2 billion reduction would pare back the Child Enrollment Contingency Fund, meant to ensure states have access to funds if there is a higher-than-expected enrollment, the senior administration official said. States are not expecting to see a jump in enrollment, though, in part because the economy is improving.
While this political stunt may appease GOP hardliners in the House, there is bipartisan opposition in the Senate, who see it as Trump reneging on a deal.
“Let’s be honest about what this is: President Trump and Republicans in Congress are looking to tear apart the bipartisan [CHIP], hurting middle-class families and low-income children, to appease the most conservative special interests and feel better about blowing up the deficit to give the wealthiest few and biggest corporations huge tax breaks,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday.“
A tale of two states
Minnesota and Wisconsin sit side by side in the frozen Midwest. They have similar demographic profiles. In 2010, voters in Minnesota elected a governor, Mark Dayton, who pursued a progressive policy agenda that included a stronger minimum wage, worker protections, and public investments in infrastructure. Next door in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker enacted a conservative wish-list of lower taxes and smaller government. Eight years later, the results from this policy experiment are in, as David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute explains in a new report:
Now, seven years removed from when each governor took office, there is ample data to assess which state’s economy—and by extension, which set of policies—delivered more for the welfare of its residents. The results could not be more clear: by virtually every available measure, Minnesota’s recovery has outperformed Wisconsin’s.
Minnesota outpaced Wisconsin in median wage growth, job growth, poverty reduction and in shrinking the gender pay gap, among other measures. The whole report is worth a read.
Budget cuts impede drug treatment options
Louisiana is in the midst of an opiod crisis, but the state is proposing to cut $47 million in state and federal funding for outpatient drug and alcohol treatment programs for adults enrolled in Medicaid because of persistent budget shortfalls. While this may seem counterintuitive, the situation could be worse, as the original budget proposal eliminated all drug and alcohol treatment for adults with Medicaid. Nola.com/Times Picayune’s Julia O’Donoghue explains what these cuts would do to drug treatment facilities in the state.
If Louisiana eliminated funding for inpatient drug treatment in the Medicaid program, Edward Carlson, chief executive officer of Odyssey House, anticipates 60 percent of drug treatment facilities around the state would close. Mike Martyn, executive director of Responsibility House, said his center — which serves about 45 inpatient and outpatient clients — wouldn’t be able to operate anymore. His funding would go from about $2.4 million per year to $200,000 per year. Carlson said Louisiana already does a poor job of managing the opioid problem because it has no coordinated plan to handle the epidemic. Louisiana needs about three times the number of drug treatment beds that it currently has, but the budget cuts would make what is already a bad situation worse, he said.
Number of the Day
$7 billion – Amount proposed to be cut from CHIP under President Donald Trump’s rescission proposal (Source: Washington Post)