Sen. Patti Anne Lodge on DHW, immunizations

Sen. Patti Anne Lodge on DHW, immunizations

by
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
April 2, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
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April 2, 2010

Among the areas of state spending hit hard by the reductions to the Idaho budget were health and human services.  Almost $1 out of every $5 paid in state taxes goes to these programs.  During the past two years, state funding for the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) and other health programs like public health districts has dropped 25 percent, a total of $155 million.

While the decision on how to set state spending is made by one panel of lawmakers, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees helped set policy for DHW that reflected the shrinking budget.  Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, who chairs the Senate panel that works with DHW, spoke with IdahoReporter.com about the challenges for state health and human services programs this year.

The Idaho House and Senate approved a plan to allow private hospitals to voluntarily assess themselves to prevent greater shortfalls in federal Medicaid spending.  That legislation could save the state $25 million in the next fiscal year.  Lawmakers also approved a plan to reduce payments to some Medicaid long-term care providers and pharmacies that could save $3.4 million.  Those two plans would have the largest impact on the state budget of all legislation that didn’t go through JFAC’s budget writers.

Another health care issue lawmakers dealt with was a trio of proposals designed to improve Idaho’s lagging immunization rates.  Lodge said the plans could lower the cost of immunizations for some, and make sure that more kids are reported as receiving their vaccines.

Lawmakers approved all three plans.  Gov. Butch Otter signed a proposal to assess health insurance providers to create a universal pool for buying childhood immunizations in early March.  Lodge explains why the state will pool insurer’s money to get kids’ vaccines.

Lodge said one area of lawmaking left on the table as the session finished is some type of reform to the state’s emergency medical services (EMS), which DHW manages.  She’s asking the Legislature’s investigators, the Office of Performance Evaluations, to look into how Idaho’s EMS system compares to other states.

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