Tuesday, April 7, 2009

House Budget Starts to Take Shape

The House Appropriations Council on General Government and Health Care approved its half of the state's budget today, which includes health care funding. During the meeting, Rep. Carl Domino (R-83) stated that the Healthy Seniors budget contains only minor cuts in programs for seniors. Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-6) reported that the Medicaid budget is $18.1 billion, with $3.5 billion coming from the state's general revenue fund. The federal stimulus money allowed the state to reduce its funding by 19.1 percent. The budget included no cut in rates for hospitals or most Medicaid providers. Rep. Kevin Ambler (R-47) stated that nursing homes have a 2.5 percent cut due to an increase in the Nursing Home Diversion Program.

In discussing the Budget Implementing bill, Rep. Oscar Braynon (D-103) offered an amendment to strike language which extends the moratorium for another year on nursing home staffing above 2.6 CNA hours. He, as well as Rep. Yolly Roberson (D-104), called for higher staffing and the funds to pay for it. Rep. Ambler provided an extensive defense of the 2.6 hour staffing, including findings from a recently released Agency for Health Care Administration report, as well as the current budget situation. Rep. Braynon withdrew the amendment and asked that everyone continue to look at this issue.

In the end, the Council approved both the budget and the budget implementing bill along party lines. FHCA will continue to monitor the proposed cuts to nursing homes, urging legislators of the negative effect these cuts would have on nursing home quality care for residents.

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