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Legislative Update: Let’s talk about money

Legislative Update: Week 2

General assembly meets for joint budget hearings

Last week the Georgia General Assembly met for joint budget hearings. Both the House and Senate heard from Governor Brian Kemp and agency leaders about their requests for the current and upcoming state budgets. The General Assembly’s budgetary considerations consist of two parts:

1) Amendments to the current FY 2020 state budget (sometimes called the “little budget”) which will run through June 30, 2020, and

2) The FY 2021 general state budget (sometimes called the “big budget”), which will begin on July 1, 2020.

After the agency presentations, the House will craft the budget requests into legislation and continue its funding considerations.

Here we highlight some of the primary asks made by the state agencies that most impact consumer health. For more detailed budget analysis, please see the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s Overview of Georgia’s 2021 Fiscal Year Budget document.

Both chambers will reconvene today, January 27th, for the fifth day of legislative session.

State agencies present budget requests to General Assembly

Department of Community Health

The Department of Community Health (DCH) oversees Medicaid, PeachCare, hospital regulation, and other state health care programs. DCH’s presentation to the budget committees listed their current priorities as a reorganization of the Medicaid program, improvements in health care analytics, and certificate of need. While Medicaid was specifically exempted from the Governor’s requested budget cuts, DCH’s other programs are subject to funding reductions.

DCH’s FY 2020 budget includes an addition of $23 million to support the Indigent Care Trust Fund, which draws down additional federal money for Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments. DCH’s proposed cuts for the current budget year include a $463,000 cut from the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center, $962,000 in reduced funds for the Mercer School of Medicine operating grant and $1.2 million cut from the Morehouse School of Medicine operating grant.

DCH’s FY 2021 budget reductions included additional funding cuts for the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center, Mercer School of Medicine, and Morehouse School of Medicine. DCH requested an increase of $169 million for Medicaid and PeachCare, of which $79.8 million would offset a reduction in the matching Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate. The FY 2021 request also includes a $101.5 million increase for expected enrollment growth in Medicaid.

Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) provides treatment, support services, and assistance to Georgians with disabilities, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders. Commissioner Fitzgerald presented DBHDD’s budget, and while acknowledging the need for improved efficiencies, she lamented the negative impact budget cuts would have on services to Georgians.

As expressed in their presentation to budget leaders, DBHDD’s top priority is minimizing the impact of funding cuts on the Georgians they serve. The FY 2020 budget will see $33.3 million in reduced funding, in part made up of $12.8 million from child and adolescent mental health services, $5 million from adult addictive disease services, and $4.1 million in reduced direct care support services.

The FY 2021 budget includes an addition of $2.7 million for 125 new slots in the New Options Now program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, the budget also includes funding cuts of $14 million to child and adolescent mental health services, $8 million in adult behavioral health services, $5 million for adult addictive disease services, and $4.8 million in direct care support services.

Department of Insurance

The Office of the Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner (aka the Department of Insurance or DOI) regulates individual and small group health insurance and many other types of insurance sold in Georgia. DOI’s budget request included a one-time addition of $700,000 for updated technology so that the department can more efficiently regulate and collect fees from insurance companies. DOI’s budget has been largely stagnant for the last decade and, as a result, few budget cuts were required.

Halfway there! Don’t miss your chance to act!

The comment period is halfway over! Take action now!

Before the legislative session began, Governor Kemp filed paperwork with health officials in the federal government to move forward with their plans to change Medicaid and private insurance in Georgia. Now those health officials need your input, beginning with the Medicaid plan!

Governor Kemp’s Medicaid plan will leave thousands of low-income Georgians with no meaningful way to get health insurance. Instead of expanding Medicaid to cover 490,000 Georgians, this plan would cover only 50,000 people and cost three times more per person.

We need you to step up AGAIN and become a health care hero by telling national officials what you think of the Medicaid plan! The deadline for comment is Friday, February 7th. Visit CoverGA.org to comment today!

Did you submit a comment in November? Please submit a comment again so federal officials can hear directly from you.

GHF has you covered

Stay up-to-date with the legislative session

GHF will be monitoring legislative activity on a number of critical consumer health care topics. Along with our weekly legislative updates and timely analysis of bills, we have the tools you need to stay in touch with health policy under the Gold Dome.

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