March 25, 2011 – Frankfort – The Kentucky House of Representatives voted Thursday evening for legislation that will solve the Medicaid crisis, protect education from any cuts and end a costly special legislative session that had little consensus between House and Senate leaders.
“This approach gives us what the House has wanted all along: To solve a problem without harming education and our most vulnerable citizens,” said state Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford. “I’m proud we could find a bipartisan way to close an issue that, if we did not act, would have severely undermined healthcare providers who serve Medicaid patients.
The problem arose last fall when Congress did not provide as much stimulus money as Kentucky and about two dozen other states had expected. Ultimately, the shortfall totaled more than a half-billion dollars, and the only way to close it by the end of the fiscal year this summer without the General Assembly acting would be to cut payments to the Medicaid healthcare providers by as much as 35 percent.
“Governor Beshear offered a strong plan in November that would have kept this solution within Medicaid and not harm any other program,” Rep. Rand said. “The House agreed with that in early February. It wasn’t until there were only a few legislative days left that we even saw the Senate plan, and it relied heavily on cuts to classrooms, our veterans, our local governments and other agencies that have already had their budgets cut by a fifth or more in recent years. I could not support that, not when there was a viable alternative.”
With Thursday’s action, the House agreed to pass the latest Senate version, with Governor Beshear promising in a letter to veto the language that would have cut education and other services. “Let me be clear: I do not like the Senate bill, but this is a classic case of taking one small step back so we can take two large steps forward,” Rep. Rand said. “By doing this, we can avoid what likely would have been the second drawn-out debate on a compromise with Senate leaders that would have guaranteed no resolution. Now, we can rest assured that our hospitals, our local pharmacies, and other physicians will not see their payments cut at all. The classroom will continue to be preserved, and so will so many other services.”
In a letter from Governor Beshear to all House members, he assured them that he would use his veto power to uphold the chamber’s original goal of keeping the problem within Medicaid. “You have my absolute commitment to honor the principles you and the Senate Democrats have stood for throughout this session,” he wrote.
The House voted to end the special session shortly after the legislation was sent to Governor Beshear. The Senate chose not to follow, however, and House leaders said that move to tack on more than a dozen days could cost taxpayers well over $800,000. “We believe that we should do all we can to save taxpayer dollars, and our plan to end our work now does just that,” Rep. Rand said. “It’s the action the people deserve.”