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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gov. Beshear Wants to Shift Medicaid Funds to Avoid Shortage

Seeking to prevent deep cuts in services, Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday that he will ask lawmakers to shift $166.5 million from next year's Medicaid budget into the current fiscal year.  The maneuver would allow Kentucky to draw more federal matching money for Medicaid from federal stimulus funds, though it only postpones the need to achieve savings or make cuts in the program.  The stimulus funds expire June 30, which is also the end of the current fiscal year. 

If nothing is done, Kentucky’s $6 billion-a-year Medicaid program could wind up as much as $600 million short this year, the governor said.  And that, he said, could lead to “devastating” cuts of up to 30 percent in the federal-state health plan for the poor and disabled that serves more than 800,000 people.  The cuts most likely would be made in payments to health care providers, such as hospitals, physicians and nursing homes.

“I am very confident this will pass, and I am very confident it will pass with bipartisan support,” said Beshear, who announced the proposed legislation at a news conference with several top Democrats who control the House, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg and budget chairman Rick Rand of Bedford. 

But prospects are less certain in the Republican-controlled Senate.  Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, refused to say whether he thought the Senate would approve such a measure.  But he said the governor must explain to lawmakers why he has achieved only about two thirds of the $125 million in Medicaid cost savings he promised in the current budget. 

“This governor needs to explain to the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky why he has not properly managed the Medicaid system,” said Williams, who is seeking his party’s nomination to challenge Beshear, a Democrat, in his bid for a second term. “He’s got a lot of explaining to do.”

Further complicating the matter is that a “super-majority” in both chambers would be needed to approve the measure.  Lawmakers vote on a biennial budget every two years — which they did in 2010. Any changes to the budget in an alternate year require a three-fifths majority of lawmakers — 60 of the 100 House members and 23 of the 38 members of the Senate — under the state Constitution.

Courtesy Courier-Journal.


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