After 3 hours of cross-examination of Sec. Miller, Senate budget panel takes no vote

03/23/2011 04:46 PM

The Senate Appropriations and Revenue committee spent three hours Wednesday repeatedly asking Health and Family Services Secretary Janie Miller how the cabinet plans to save $169 million in Medicaid in next year’s budget.

Miller responded that the cabinet would be able to come up with the savings it has said it would deliver, chiefly through awarding managed care contracts to medical providers to handle certain aspects of Medicaid coverage for the poor and disabled.

The issue of savings is critical as Senators decide what to do with the latest plan aimed at fixing the more than $100 million hole in this year’s Medicaid budget.

The House passed a new proposal Monday 94-4 that moves money from next year’s budget to this year’s to give Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration a chance to balance next year’s budget with efficiencies. If the Medicaid department fails, that would trigger cuts to state agencies, although not education.

The fate of the plan now depends of whether senators believe the threat of cuts is enough or if cuts should be enacted first. In the first round of discussions, the Senate advocated for immediate cuts.

Some controversy has bubbled up over language in the House bill. Some senators questioned whether the legislation requires all the savings to come from managed care. Miller said she wants to create savings by using managed care and through other efficiencies.

The Senate budget committee didn’t vote on the proposal and so far, a Senate counterproposal hasn’t surfaced.

Sen. Bob Leeper, Independent of Paducah and chair of the Senate budget committee says the Senate isn’t trying to gum up the process and will pass something out as soon as possible.

But with no new proposals on the table and the Senate not in complete agreement with House Bill 1, that leaves plenty of suspense about whether these lawmakers can agree on some plan before notices of state Medicaid cuts to doctors and hospitals go out on April 1st.

- Kenny Colston

- Kenny Colston

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