The Richmond Register

Local News

March 19, 2011

Agreement nearing for Ky. Medicaid

FRANKFORT — At least one chamber of the Kentucky General Assembly seems to be moving closer to a bi-partisan agreement on a way to cover a Medicaid shortfall. But it’s still not clear what the details of the Democratic-controlled House proposal are nor is it clear the Republican-controlled Senate will accept it.

The plan might require Beshear to achieve budgeted levels of savings in Medicaid by specified dates and failure to do so might automatically trigger cuts to non-education programs and services.

Gov. Steve Beshear and the Democratic House want to move money from next year’s budget to this year and then make that up though managed care contracts next year. Senate President David Williams — who like Beshear is running for governor — says he isn’t likely to achieve those second-year savings and insists on across-the-board cuts to the rest of government, including education, to cover the difference.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Thursday he’s given a proposal to House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover which makes some concessions to the Senate but includes no cuts to education. Hoover said Friday his initial reaction “is fairly positive.” But he wouldn’t say more until he could share the proposal with his Republican members.

“Our position will be caucus-driven,” Hoover said.

Stumbo said “we’ve made quite a bit of progress,” but like Hoover wouldn’t share any details. He has previously said, however, the plan might include “targeted cuts” if Beshear fails to achieve the savings he says he can.

That could include timelines and target dates by which Beshear would have to demonstrate some level of savings through managed care or cuts in non-education programs would begin — before January, the halfway point in the fiscal year which runs July 1 through June 30. Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, said he hasn’t been involved in negotiations, “but that sounds a lot like what I’ve heard.” He thinks Beshear would accept a plan approved with bi-partisan support in the General Assembly.

Meanwhile Williams blasted Beshear for a letter the governor sent to Medicaid providers asking them to pressure Williams and other Republican senators to accept his and the House proposal to balance the Medicaid problem without cuts to other programs.

“The only thing he’s done is travel around the state with very high-charged political statements, including making statements such as he made in the most recent letter we received from some of the providers,” Williams said. The letter says Beshear will have to cut Medicaid reimbursement rates by 35 percent if a deal isn’t brokered.

Williams said Beshear is “trying to use scare tactics in order to coerce the General Assembly and the Kentucky state Senate into creating a huge budget gap next year and it’s not going to work. It is a road map to disaster and he’s just trying to put the disaster off until after the election. It’s obvious what he’s trying to do.”

Williams again suggested House Republicans aren’t united behind Hoover who issued a statement toward the end of the regular session that House Republicans wouldn’t support cuts to education.

“I was also glad to hear Alecia Webb-Edgington (Republican representative from Ft. Wright) and some other Republicans say they realize there needs to be some across-the-board cuts,” Williams said.

But Webb-Edgington later said Williams’ statement isn’t an accurate account of her comments in the House budget committee hearing Thursday.

“What I was saying was that any education cuts need to start at the Department of Education rather than in the schools,” she said. She said she also takes issue with suggestions House Republicans’ position against education cuts is a bow to pressure from the Kentucky Education Association.

“I don’t care if the teachers ever give me a nickel,” Webb-Edgington said. “That’s my mother. My mother was a classroom teacher for 35 years in Edmonson County.”

Williams said no one has discussed the House plan with him. Stumbo and Hoover both said they want to make sure their members agreed on it before sharing it with the Senate.

Stumbo expects the House budget committee to take up the proposal when it meets Monday at 2 p.m. and hopes it can be quickly voted out of the House in time for Senate action before the end of the second week of the special session.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. He may be contacted by

e-mail at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.

twitter.com/

cnhifrankfort.

 

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