State agencies face cuts

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2012

State Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, was among 11 legislators who broke with their party last week voting against the House’s  $1.39 billion version of the General Fund budget, which was passed by a 56-47 vote and will cut funding to many state agencies by approximately $340 million, an almost 20 percent decrease.
Baker said the budget fails to take into consideration any possible alternatives to simply slashing the budget of vital state agencies.
“There will be drastic cuts to several agencies,” Baker said. “That was my main concern. I don’t have anything specific in mind at this point, but we should be addressing ways we can be generating other opportunities, whatever those are.”
Under the new budget, the largest aspect of the General Fund, Medicaid, would see a financial hit of $175 million, also cutting federal funding for the program.
Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, also voted against the budget and said legislators should be protecting those who fall under the umbrella of Medicaid and programs like the Department of Human Resources.
“The two groups we have to protect, first and foremost, are those groups of people who are least able to fend for themselves,” Jones said. “I place in the description, the elderly and children, and DHR and Medicaid took some tremendous impact.”
Baker echoed Jones’ thoughts.
“I would reiterate that,” he said. “We need to be concerned with who these cuts will impact, such as things like DHR and Medicaid, so our children and our elderly.”
Atmore Nursing Center administrator Cindy Lee said cuts to Medicaid will impact the facility she oversees, as about 75 percent of residents receive services through the program, but will not bring an end to those services for any residents.
“In October of last year, under Medicare, we faced a 10 percent cut,” Lee said. “Medicaid accounts for a good portion of our reimbursements now. We don’t know exactly how much of a cut it will be, but it will have an effect. We will have to be efficient in the services we provide.”
Lee said the cut will not necessarily have an impact on who will be qualified to receive Medicaid as much as the services those patients will be able to receive.
“In order to qualify for Medicaid you have to meet certain financial limits and those limits have not really changed,” Lee said. “So really the same amount of people are able to qualify. If a resident comes to our facility and they need care, we’re obligated to provide that regardless of if we’re getting a cut in our Medicaid reimbursements.”
Despite the cuts, Lee said ANC will have to find ways to provide services, most likely meaning being very frugal about when and how they are made available to residents.
Jones said he raised many of the issues facing the general public as a result of the new budget during Tuesday’s vote.
“I spoke to some of those issues during the night (Tuesday),” he said. “I let everyone know where I stood, and that’s why I voted against it.”
Both Baker and Jones expressed hope the budget would find its way back to the House after an up coming vote in the Alabama Senate.
“It now goes to Senate, and I think there are going to be a lot of changes,” Jones said. “And I think the Senate will do a lot of work. I spoke with Sen. (Jimmy) Holley and gave him some insight. Sen. Holley and I work very well together and keep each other informed of what goes on in both the House and the Senate.”
Baker also expects to for the House to have another chance to vote on the budget.
“It has been passed through the House and now it will move on to the Senate and I don’t know what will happen with it,” Baker said. “But I expect it to come back to us in some version or another.”

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