ActionAlertApril2015ActionAlertMarch2015Earlier this week the House Finance committee approved their version of the state budget by a vote of 15-11. The DHHS budget was reduced by more than $200 million from Gov. Hassan's spending recommendation put forth in February. (Read Gov. Hassan's March 23rd statement about these budget cuts.)

On Wednesday April 1, when the entire House will vote on the budget, a floor amendment (1168H) will be introduced to restore budget cuts (Click here to read the text of House amendment 1168H to be presented).

The budget as it stands now cuts more than $50 million from the Area Agency system that provides vital services for those with disabilities (see below). Families have been asking to participate and now is the opportunity. Now is the time to make your voice heard about these cuts! Call your representative and, if you can, attend the rally on April 1 in Concord.

Please call your representative before March 31 and ask them to vote yes on a floor amendment that would provide money to Developmental Disability (DD) and Acquired Brain Disorder (ABD) families. Otherwise vote NO on the budget if money and services are not restored. Click here to find your representatives and their phone numbers.

Details on the budget cuts:

The Bureaus of Developmental Services (BDS) and Elderly and Adult Services (BEAS) took the brunt of the reductions. The numbers reflect a $10 million reduction in spending from BDS' current FY 2015 budget. When compared to what the governor recommended in her FY 2016-17 budget, BDS spending is cut by about $26 million in general funds.

The BDS reductions made by the committee are:

  • DD Waiver and Waitlist: $16.7 million
  • In Home Supports Waiver and Waitlist: $1.16 million
  • ABD Waiver and Waitlist: $1.19 million.
  • Family Supports and Services: $5 million
  • Early intervention: $1.2 million
  • Special Medical Services: $732,000

Because all of the above programs (except Family Supports and Services) have a 50-50 Medicaid match, the reduction in funding is nearly doubled, more than $50 million.

In another reversal, the committee now assumes budget expense reductions will come from an earlier-than-planned rolling into managed care of three BDS Medicaid Waivers and Early Intervention, in the second budget year (FY 2017). It is important to note that DHHS has told the Legislature this is an extremely risky policy decision and that it is highly unlikely that Step 2-Phase 3 will be implemented in the next biennium.

This budget version will be voted on by the full House, and go to the Senate in April. The Senate will then create its version of HB 1 and 2. In June, if there are differences in Senate and House versions, a Committee of Conference will be formed, comprised of both House and Senate representatives. This group will confer and deliberate to forge the final budget, which will be presented to Gov. Hassan for her signature. All this must be done by June 30, 2015.

What does this mean and why did it happen?

The House Finance committee by their action this week affirmed the extremist cuts recommended by Division III to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). In an effort to hide from the public the consequences of their actions, the committee has spoken about increased spending numbers in the DHHS budget. This is largely the result of additional federal dollars flowing to NH because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). There is a small increase in general fund spending, largely because of the ACA and the hospital and mental health lawsuits.

The chairman of the Finance committee said today that money was taken from the disabled and shifted to those with mental illness because of the federal lawsuit. The majority of the House Finance committee is unwilling to raise revenue to pay for these lawsuits, thus spending was reduced in other areas such as the BDS and BEAS budgets.

In summary, the House Finance committee has endorsed the return of the DD/ABD waitlists, the elimination of any funding for the In Home Supports waitlist, cuts to non-Medicaid Family Supports, and other reductions in BDS.

In other related areas, the committee retained a 50% reduction in non-Medicaid services for seniors such as Meals on Wheels, Transportation, and the elimination of the ServiceLink program.

The good news is that the Finance committee restored one of the most extreme and cruel actions this session, the elimination of no less than 20 benefits under the Medicaid state plan. The budget no longer includes a directive to create a "barebones" plan, one that would have eliminated items such as ambulance services, wheelchair van services, audiology services, private duty nursing, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, personal care and many others.

The above action would have saved about $9 million dollars for the state of NH and shifted those costs to the poor, disabled and frail citizens who depend on these services.

Most, if not all, of these cuts could be restored if the Legislature would meet the Governor half way on her revenue estimates, or half way on her tobacco tax increase.

The State Senate gets its shot at the biennium budget in April, before it goes to the governor for signature at the end of June. The House budget is often the low point in this process, and the above cuts hopefully will not stand through June when the budgeting process comes to an end.

Important to note:

Before the budget even reaches the Senate in April, there will be efforts on NH House floor to restore the cuts mentioned above. All who care about these programs should attend the House session on April 1 and/or let their own House Representatives know prior to April 1 that you, as a constituent, support the efforts to restore funding to these wise investments in our state and its people.

Please call your representative before March 31 and ask them to vote yes on a floor amendment that would provide money to Developmental Disability (DD) and Acquired Brain Disorder (ABD) families. Otherwise vote NO on the budget if money and services are not restored.