The Georgia House of Representatives this week rearranged the state’s 2016 budget plan for education, health care and human services from the one the governor unveiled in January. The new version still does not include budget cuts required to pay for a pending plan to raise $1 billion for road and bridge maintenance. House Bill 170 proposes to shift $180 million to the Department of Transportation from the state’s general fund that pays for education, health care, public safety and other necessities.
House members approved their budget proposal Thursday and it’s now headed for a review in the Senate.
Let’s take a look at what’s new in the House version of the $21.8 billion, 2016 budget, broken down by spending category.
The governor proposed to eliminate the health insurance coverage in the next school year for part-time, non-certified school employees, including bus drivers, food service workers and custodial workers. The House 2016 budget plan continues to allow for their health insurance coverage in the state plan. The House proposes to cover the insurance costs by increasing the contribution of school districts by $150 per non-certified employee per month at a total cost of $102 million. This takes a big bite from the $280 million the governor included to reduce the K-12 funding formula austerity cut. Shifting that $102 million cost to districts makes it more difficult for them to shrink class sizes, restore student programs that were cut, increase training and other supports for teachers, or make other strategic investments.
Department of Community Health
The House version of the 2016 budget reduces state funding for Medicaid and PeachCare by $31 million, compared to the governor’s proposal. It adds $3 million for grants to rural hospitals and other health care providers as recommended by the governor’s Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, while subtracting $1.7 million from other DCH programs.
Both the governor’s proposal and the House budget largely fail to add new state money to restore a previously federally-funded increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates used to pay for primary care services. The state needs to spend $60.7 million in the 2016 fiscal year to leverage $125.5 million of federal money that would continue the higher payment rates. The House budget includes only $4.5 million.
The House budget eliminates new items included in the governor’s budget proposal. Specifically, the House eliminates:
- $22.8 million to pay for new treatment medications for patients with Hepatitis C
- $12.1 million to cover start-up costs for the launch of a new case management program for enrollees eligible under the Aged, Blind, & Disabled program
Additions to Medicaid and PeachCare include:
- $1.3 million to increase the hourly rate for personal support services under the Independent Care Waiver Program
- $500,000 to increase reimbursement for air-ambulance services for adult patients
Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities
The House budget plan leaves the governor’s proposal for the Department of Developmental Disabilities intact, while adding nearly $3.6 million from the general fund for three policy issues. Specifically, the House budget adds:
- $1.1 million for 75 slots for the NOW/COMP waiver programs, which provide services to people with developmental or intellectual disabilities
- $1 million for increased health services and forensic services technicians
- $1.4 million to fund eight in-patient crisis stabilization beds in Fulton County.
Department of Human Services
The most significant additions the House makes to the governor’s proposed 2016 human services budget include:
- $1.5 million for Home and Community Based Services
- $900,000 for the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency to assist training and employment support for Georgians with disabilities