Idaho lawmakers have approved the spending plan for parts of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), which includes a reduction in state funding for Medicaid. Spending for health and human services is the second largest item in the Idaho state budget, trailing only education spending. Medical assistance programs, including Medicaid, take up approximately 75 percent of DHW’s budget, though most of that money comes from the federal government. Medicaid provides health care for low-income children and adults as well as people with disabilities and other special health needs.
The budget for Medicaid includes a $22 million reduction in state spending. Since the federal government matches state spending on a roughly 4 to 1 ratio, the state will lose $88 million in federal money by reducing its spending.
Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello, spoke against the reductions. “Basically, we’ve turned away the opportunity to have $88 million in match money,” she said. “This will result in employees being laid off and furloughs … These are cuts in services to our most vulnerable.” Seven other senators joined Bilyeu in voting against the Medicaid budget.
Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said the reductions for Medicaid and other DHW spending are the unfortunate result of lower tax revenues. “This is an ugly budget,” she said. “No one likes it. No one likes these cuts.”
State spending for medical assistance programs for the next fiscal year, which begins in July, will be $298.2 million, a 3.5 percent decrease. However, overall spending, which includes federal funding, will increase 3.1 percent. The budgets for medical assistance and other DHW budgets haven’t changed since legislative budget writers set them earlier this session. Read IdahoReporter.com’s stories on those budgets here, here, and here. The budgets now head to the governor.
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