The Idaho Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved a plan that could reduce the state’s spending on Medicaid by $3.4 million, which would be a part of the $42 million to $47 million in reductions needed to balance the state budget. The plan is one of several key pieces of legislation lawmakers say they’ll need to pass before they can end their session. It would reduce Medicaid’s prescription drug costs and reimbursements to health care providers that treat people on Medicaid, which provides health coverage for low-income children and adults as well as people with disabilities and other special health needs.
The reductions in the plan would only cover about 9 percent of the cuts needed for Medicaid. Larry Tisdale, the bureau chief of Medicaid financial operations for the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), said the reduction fits into its method of reducing costs. “It is to nibble around the edges and try to come to a solution,” Tisdale said. “This is a pretty significant bite.” The legislation would give DHW more authority to cut Medicaid spending midyear. The Idaho House approved the proposed reductions, which faced opposition from some long-term care providers, who said the reductions wouldn’t be spread fairly among Medicaid providers. Tisdale met with some providers over the weekend to discuss the reductions, but said there wasn’t a meeting of the minds on how to make Medicaid cuts.
Democrats on the Senate committee voted against the plan, saying it’s coming too late in the legislative session. “We’re making perhaps some major policy changes and our neck is on the guillotine,” said Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, who said he wasn’t convinced the plan would reduce costs for DHW and health care providers. “We really need to make the right decision today.”
Bock and fellow Boise Democrat Sen. Nicole LeFavour, as well as Sen. Melinda Smyser, R-Parma, tried to make changes to the legislation that could have appeased some health care providers. LeFavour also called for lawmakers to shift some money in a reserve fund to lessen the reductions to Medicaid she said would be difficult for DHW to meet. “We’re giving the department a fairly impossible task in some ways,” she said. LeFavour also expressed concern that DHW will make more than $40 million in Medicaid reductions during the next year without public hearings or input from lawmakers.
The majority of Republicans on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee opposed changing the legislation. “If this was not the last day of the session, I would reject this bill,” said Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle. “I don’t like it, I don’t want to do it, but we don’t have a lot of options.”
“These are tough decisions,” said Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell. “There’s no other alternative, other than raising people’s taxes, than to make these types of decisions right now.” The committee chair, Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, will sponsor the legislation on the floor on Monday. Read the text of the legislation here.