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Monday, 28 March 2016 14:39
What gets cut with John Bel Edwards's Louisiana healthcare cut knife?
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by Lou Gehrig Burnett, Publisher of Fax-Net
    That was probably the reaction from state higher education officials on the final round of budget cuts to balance the current year budget.
    When Gov. John Bel Edwards was campaigning  for the state’s highest office, he made sure everyone knew his wife, Donna, was a teacher and he was very supportive of education.

   That fact likely got him a lot of votes from those in the state who are involved in education at all levels.
    And true to his promise, when it came down after the Special Session that additional cuts were needed to complete the current year’s budget, Edwards spared higher education.
    It was determined that another $30 million in cuts were needed, so Edwards put his knife to health care.  On the bright side, it wasn’t as bad as expected.  It was first thought an additional $70 million in cuts were needed.
    The figure was whittled to $30 million through lower-than-expected expenses and efficiencies his administration created since taking office in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
    “At my direction, DHH has taken a sharp pencil to its budget, scrutinized its spending patterns closely  under our first full year of our new private-insurance style Medicaid program and found ways to make some very painful cuts,” Edwards said at a press conference.
    He added, “We are grateful, too, that our public-private safety net hospital partners came to the table, willing to work with us for the good of our Louisiana citizens during this difficult time..”
    Here are the cuts:
    *$500,000 for the Pediatric Day Health Care Program;
    *$10.3 million reducing the rates paid to Bayou Health, a state contractor administering Medicaid insurance;
    *$1.9 million in reduction to DHH contracts;
    *$6.9 million, a 1.5% reduction to the private partners who operate the state’s 10 safety net hospitals; 
    *$10.4 million by making hospital payments under a better Medicaid expansion federal match rate.
    Colleges and universities will still absorb $28 million that the Legislature didn’t provide to fully fund the state Taylor Opportunity Program (TOPS) for students during the current year. Schools essentially will have to eat that cost – effectively a budget cut, but not as bad as it could have been.
    Not cutting beyond the TOPS shortfall was important to Edwards, who said, “I could not in good conscience put another cut on higher  education on the backs of college students after eight years of the deepest cuts to higher education.” 
    But the bottom line is there is little light at the end of the tunnel.  Next year’s budget hole could approach $2 billion depending upon revenues.. A  Special  Session  will likely be called to deal with that impending  disaster.

Lou Gehrig Burnett

Lou Gehrig Burnett is the publisher of Fax-Net, a North-Louisiana newsletter.

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