Medicaid reductions would hamper HMH budget

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Impasse in Frankfort could lead to millions in cuts to hospitals

By Marty Finley

An impasse to shore up a deficit in the state Medicaid budget has forced a special session in Frankfort and the fallout, if no agreement is reached, could leave a hole in Hardin Memorial Hospital’s budget.

HMH President and CEO Dennis Johnson on Tuesday said the hospital can expect to see about $1.1 million in Medicaid reductions if the cuts predicted by Gov. Steve Beshear are implemented in the final three months of the fiscal year. The budget calendar ends June 30.

The governor wants to shift about $166 million from next year’s Medicaid budget to the current year to fill the void while the Senate has offered a plan to make across-the-board cuts to find the savings.

Beshear last week told a crowd in Elizabethtown he feels the Medicaid budget should be balanced within the Medicaid program and has presented a plan to recoup the cost from shifting the money by entering contracts for managed care programs.

Beshear said the Senate plan is unacceptable because it will balance the budgets on the backs of students and education.

Meanwhile, the Senate has balked at Beshear’s plan and said the governor will fail to find the savings he has promised. Members of the Senate have said it will leave a gaping deficit in the budget later. Senate President David Williams, who is running for governor, has said the plan offered by Beshear could result in a $300 million deficit over the next year and create a need for tax increases or “crippling reductions” in services.

Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry said he admires Beshear’s desire to balance the Medicaid budget within the program, but said it probably is not feasible. In comparison, Berry said the county is unable to balance the jail or solid waste budgets with the money available.

Berry said he also thinks some political gamesmanship and scare tactics are in play and does not believe the 30 to 35 percent reductions to providers warned by Beshear is the only avenue worth pursuit. He said the state should look at other options, such as modifying eligibility requirements.

Magistrate Doug Goodman said he feels neither option offered by the state is desirable.

“Everyone wants to be the dog,” he said. “No one wants to be the tail.”

As of the end of February, financial reports show revenue at HMH was outpacing expenses by about $625,000, but Johnson said the potential reductions are a considerable cause for concern.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.