Legislative Committee Hears Concerns Over Medicaid Cuts

The total cut, including the loss of federal matching funds, would be $26 million

By Associated Press

HELENA — Montana residents who receive services paid for by Medicaid will suffer greatly, and some may have their lives shortened, if the state health department is allowed to follow through with its proposal to reduce its Medicaid provider reimbursement rate and end some case management services, families and providers told a legislative committee on Monday.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services proposed the cuts after the Legislature reduced its budget by about $8.6 million. The total cut, including the loss of federal matching funds, would be $26 million.

The Children, Families, Health and Human Services interim committee objected to the proposed cuts, saying they did not meet legislative intent. The committee’s objection put a six-month delay on the process and led to Monday’s hearing.

More than 100 people lined up to testify, saying the proposed cuts would harm elderly people, those with mental illnesses or disabilities and cause them to need costlier treatment or services or even shorten their lives, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.

“If my children were not getting these services, my son would be in (juvenile detention) or the state hospital. My daughter would be the same or possibly dead, and if she were dead I’d be in the state hospital,” said Libby Velde of Missoula. “There has got to be another area in our budget that can fluctuate without such a dire consequence to every single Montana citizen.”

Nursing home operators said they have clients who could no longer afford to live in their nursing homes under lower Medicaid rates. Providers said they couldn’t find any other places to cut costs.

Tyler Stosich said home care services that help him with daily needs like showering and getting dressed allow him to work.

“Without Medicaid and the ability to have this help, I would be in a facility. I wouldn’t be contributing to the community, paying taxes, working or just having a sense of fulfillment with my daily life,” Stosich said.

The committee voted 7-1 Monday to continue its objection and to have a lawyer draft a formal objection to review at a November meeting. DPHHS Director Sheila Hogan said the department would need to talk with its attorneys about what happens next. She declined further comment.

Gov. Steve Bullock also has asked each agency to make recommendations for another 10 percent in budget cuts due to declining state revenues.

The health department’s proposals, submitted Friday, list $105 million in proposed cuts, including in senior and long-term care, child protection services and addictive and mental disorder programs. Lawmakers must look at those plans and make recommendations. The final decision is up to the governor.

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