The proposed 2016 state budget directs $3.6 billion from the general fund to Georgia’s three health care focused agencies, the departments of community health, public health, and behavioral health and developmental disabilities. The total reaches $4.2 billion when you add in provider fees levied on hospitals and nursing homes in Georgia and Tobacco Settlement money, as shown in our 2016 budget overview of the Department of Community Health. About 19 percent of Georgia’s $21.8 billion state budget is assigned to health care, making it the second largest area of state spending, behind only education.
Meanwhile, Georgia is home to the fifth largest number of uninsured residents of any state in the country and ranks near the bottom in a variety of health outcomes and determinants. The proposed 2016 budget omits policy proposals meant to tackle these issues. Georgia pointedly turns down new federal funding that could extend health coverage to up to 500,000 uninsured Georgians, while new investment in the state’s public health system remains inadequate. The health section of next year’s budget is just a 0.2 percent increase above the 2015 budget. On a per-capita basis, the state’s investment in health care amounts to about $420 per Georgian in 2016.
Department of Community Health
The proposed budget reduces general fund support to the Department of Community Health by $22.8 million, while adding $8.3 million in other state sources, with Georgia’s hospital provider fee the most prominent one. This comes as a result of a $153.9 million increase in federal funding for Medicaid and PeachCare, in part due to new money associated with the Affordable Care Act.
The proposed budget uses the new federal funds to cover projected enrollment growth in 2016, but it doesn’t include new state money to maintain a prior increase in federally-funded reimbursement rates paid to primary care practitioners who serve Medicaid patients.
Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
The proposed 2016 budget provides $973 million from the state general fund for this department, which represents a $15.3 million increase above the 2015 budget. The budget also directs $10.3 million in Tobacco Settlement Funds to this department in 2016, the same amount as 2015.
Here’s what’s new in the 2016 budget:
- $12.4 million more to continue to meet the terms of a 2010 Department of Justice Settlement, bringing the total added to implement the agreement to $171.5 million. The new money in 2016 is to pay for mental health crisis service centers, intensive support coordination and waiver services for Georgians with Developmental Disabilities.
- $8.9 million more for statewide increased costs for the employee retirement system and modest pay raises for state employees
- $5.8 million less form the general fund as a result of an increased federal matching rate for services provided to Medicaid patients
Department of Public Health
The proposed 2016 budget directs $208.6 million from the state general fund to the Department of Public Health, an increase of $8.1 million more than 2015. The budget also directs $13.7 million in Tobacco Settlement Funds to this department in 2016, the same amount as 2015. Georgia’s public health investment from its general fund amounts to just 5 cents per Georgian, per day, a rate that ranked 36th worst among the states in a 2014 report by the Trust for America’s Health.
Here’s what’s new in the 2016 budget:
- $1.4 million more to continue to implement the revised distribution formula for grant-in-aid funds to county health departments while ensuring their allocation doesn’t decline as a result. This money pays for the fifth year of a seven-year phase in of a new distribution formula.
- $6.6 million more for statewide increased costs for the employee retirement system and modest pay raises for state employees.