Committee pitches increasing spending for ‘safety net’ programs

With demand for safety net programs growing, the legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Thursday proposed increasing funding to state’s social services by $444 million. They also proposed a new hospital tax on providers to bring in $206.8 million for the coming year, which begins July 1.

State Medicaid spending increases $67.8 million, but does cut $2.3 million for vision coverage. The committee rejected Gov. M. Jodi Rell‘s proposed co-payments for Medicaid and Husky B insurance for children, a move Rell estimated would bring in $11.1 million the coming year.

Also, the Appropriations Committee restored $1.8 million in funding for interpreters for non-English speaking Medicaid patients and $5.9 million for non-emergency patient transportation. The 2-1-1 phone line Husky patients call to get their questions answered or to apply through also was saved from being turned off as the Rell’s budget proposed.

Also proposed is a reimbursement rate increase for the state-run welfare programs for adults – SAGA – to match Medicaid funding levels. Rell had originally estimated delaying the increase would save the state $91 million in the coming year, but the Appropriations committee estimates all of that would now be reimbursed by the federal government since national health care reform is law.