Lawmakers on House budget review panel want info on CHFS cuts, talk loss of kynect

02/03/2016 05:30 PM

FRANKFORT — Members of a House budget subcommittee continued to press officials in Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration for details on proposed cuts totaling 4.5 percent in the current fiscal year and 9 percent in the upcoming biennium during a meeting Wednesday.

Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, presented her cabinet’s two-year spending plan to the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Services.

The CHFS budget includes proposals to raise wages for social workers, assist community mental health centers and local health departments with rising retirement cost and increase funding for child advocacy centers, among others.

Lawmakers hoping to bore down into Bevin’s proposed budget cuts were disappointed, however.

In response to a question from Rep. Jim Wayne, Glisson said she met with commissioners and executive directors in her cabinet about the budget reductions on Monday and hoped to have more answers by early March. She said she believed the cuts would not impact the cabinet’s essential services.

“We asked them to go in the next two weeks, come back, work with us in the meantime, but in the next two weeks to come back with a proposal about how they would implement this in each of their departments,” Glisson said. “So they have the proposed budget for their department. We’ve asked each of them to go back in the next two weeks, to come back to us with a proposal what they would look like.”

Wayne, D-Louisville, asked Glisson to “expedite” that as the Democrat-run House works to draft its version of the biennial budget before sending it on to the Republican-led Senate.

“The process here is that we need to review this budget and we need to know its impact as soon as possible because we’ve started this process now, and essentially you’re saying, ‘I don’t have the information to give you to do the work that you as the committee members need to do,’” Wayne said.

“So two weeks is really, in this process, I think is long.”

The state’s health exchange, kynect, was also a topic of concern for some on the panel.

Another topic that came up during today’s committee meeting was the administration’s plan to shutter the state’s health exchange kynect in favor of the federal exchange.

Rep. George Brown asked exactly how much it will cost the transition from the state exchange to the federal exchange. Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration said moving to the federal exchange would cost the state $23 million, but Bevin has disputed that amount.

“What will the number be is the question, and I think that as we deal with what it’s going to cost to decommission it, if it’s not going to be $23 million, then we should have an idea of what that number is,” said Brown, D-Lexington.

Andrew McNeill, Bevin’s senior advisor, said the $23 million figure actually came from costs the state of Oregon paid to join the federal exchange. Still, he shed no new light on what fees Kentucky will owe once kynect is closed.

“We’ve seen some preliminary quotes on that, but they are preliminary and so it’d be irresponsible to throw a number out without having some greater finality to that,” McNeill said, adding he hasn’t seen figures “anywhere close” to the $23 million price tag previously cited.

“There is a dedicated revenue stream to fund this transition,” McNeill said of the 1 percent assessment on insurers for kynect. “And that dedicated revenue stream is the same dedicated revenue stream that was intended to support the ongoing operations of kynect.”

Rep. David Watkins also expressed his disappointment in losing kynect, saying the exchange offered many Kentuckians who have never had health insurance a portal for medical coverage.

In many cases, Watkins said people registering for coverage through kynect would discover that they’re eligible for Medicaid.

“With us doing away with kynect, it is troubling to us if we really think about our citizens in here in the state,” said Watkins, D-Henderson. “It is going to be much harder for them to sign up for the programs available to them.”

Glisson said the cabinet will have a new computer system available at its local offices for residents to enroll in health coverage through the federal exchange or in Medicaid. She also suggested that some “kynectors,” or workers hired to help residents navigate the state exchange, could remain during the transition.

The Bevin administration has already announced plans to apply for Medicaid waivers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as they look for a new delivery model for both tradition and expanded Medicaid.

Rep. Addia Wuchner was the only Republican lawmaker who spoke during Wednesday’s meeting, praising Bevin’s budget proposal and saying that access to health care doesn’t necessarily improve health outcomes.

“We already seen that access doesn’t mean the appropriate utilization,” said Wuchner, R-Burlington.


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