Apr 18, 2011

Finance Committee Wrapping Up Better Senate Budget Bill

TMA Legislative News Hotline

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sen. Steve Ogden
The only task lawmakers have to accomplish each session is to complete a two-year state budget. Both chambers now have only six weeks left to decide how they’re going to shave $27 billion off state spending while not devastating our health care infrastructure.

The Senate is scheduled to spend a great deal of its time on the subject this week. Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan), chief budget writer for the Senate, put the finishing touches on the upper chamber’s plan late last week. The next step is for the Senate Finance Committee to vote the bill out of committee. Then, the budget plan goes to the full Senate for debate.

The Senate budget spends additional dollars over the House budget on state infrastructure needs, principally related to health and human services and education. The good news is that Senate plan does not cut physicians’ Medicaid payments by 10 percent. The Senate version also includes funding for Medicaid caseload growth and restores funding for a number of important TMA priorities, including community-based and crisis mental health service, and tobacco cessation and prevention programs. Senators also added back some of the funding for primary care residencies administered by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The question remains, however, how the Senate will pay for its more generous budget. That matter lies with Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Matters. The subcommittee is trying to find nontax revenue within the state coffers to help pay for Senate spending. Some of the ideas the subcommittee has come up with so far include liquidating part of the tobacco endowment and permanent public health fund, selling state property, and determining whether to extend the small business exemption from the franchise tax.

On Thursday, the full Senate is scheduled to take up the two-year budget plan. They will debate the Senate Finance Committee’s version of House Bill 1. As passed by the Texas House, HB 1 is a $164.5 billion, bare-bones budget that includes a 10-percent cut in physician Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program fees, deep cuts in the state’s mental and public health safety programs, and reductions in funding for programs designed to recruit and retain physicians. Stay tuned.

How Does the Final House Budget (HB 1) Affect Your County?
If you want to find out how the proposed Medicaid cuts in the final House version of the budget could affect your county, check out this chart.

Monte Horne, MD
The physician of the day at the capitol is Monte Horne, MD, of Hamilton. Dr. Horne has practiced family medicine for nine years. He graduated from The University of Texas Medical Branch in 1998. Dr. Horne is a member of TMA and the Bosque-Hamilton County Medical Society, and is a CMS delegate.

Needed in Austin: patient advocates. Join hundreds of your colleagues and make a difference in legislation affecting you and your patients. Sign up now to attend First Tuesdays at the Capitol on May 3. Register today.

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Senate budget writers consider proposed hospital tax to recover costs of illegal immigrants’ charity care (Dallas Morning News)
1 in 6 Texans get Medicaid health insurance program, whose costs in Texas are projected to grow $3 billion every year
(Texas Watchdog)
Proposed budget cuts carve into Medicaid
(Tyler Morning-Telegraph)

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