Thursday, October 14, 2004

The HHSC budget briefing--in brief

Tom Suehs, Deputy Executive Director for Financial Services, provided a briefing this morning regarding the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's (HHSC) Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for the upcoming biennium (FY 2006-2007). The most critical point for the Texas HIV/AIDS community is that the current version of the HHSC LAR does not include the budgets of the component state agencies, so HIV is not addressed at this point. Suehs said that a consolidated budget for all five agencies and the HHSC would be ready by November 1.

Talking from a 20-page handout that detailed the FY2006-2007 HHSC LAR for baseline budget needs and exceptional items, Suehs pointed out that, of the $3.6 billion in new state funds requested, $2.7 billion would maintain current services. He also pointed out that the combined budget would be requesting about $6 billion total in new general revenue. This, he agreed, would be a substantial request, but he expected that the exceptional item requests would place the focus on specific policy issues that need to be discussed by legislators, and, it seems, it was just the right thing to do. [Note: We really haven't heard that "right thing to do" justification for budget requests very much from bureaucrats in the past few years.]

Key Dates:
  • October 18--HHSC presentation to Senate Finance Committee
  • October 20--HHSC public hearing before Legislative Budget Board
  • November 1--Consolidated budget available

Points of Interest:

  • HHSC is proposing an actual plan to eliminate waiting lists for state services across all component agencies over the next 10 years.
  • There are no funds for the expansion of STAR+PLUS in the current LAR.
  • TIERS is (finally) expected to begin in mid to late 2005.
  • The state will begin paying premiums to Medicare in 2006 to cover the cost of prescription drug coverage for dual eligibles (who formerly received medications through Medicaid). [My crystal ball says this debate ain't over.]
  • The Medicaid VendorDrug Program, despite some significant changes that were supposed to save money, is expected to grow by about 25%. [That's a rough estimate, not an exact calculation.] The $1.8 billion increase is, however, hard to find in the exceptional item requests, and it's even harder to figure out how much of that amount is general revenue (state dollars) versus federal Medicaid matching funds. Exceptional Item 3, Maintain Medicaid Cost and Utilization Trends, appears the most likely place for this issue, but other costs are combined in the item.

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