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Department of Health Proposes Increased Budget

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Department leaders sat in front of the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday, as Legislators continue taking an early look at next fiscal year’s budget. 

 

The state’s largest agency, the Department of Health, proposed growing their budget by $2.4 billion, much of which comes from the federal government. 

Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee pointed to the success of Medicaid expansion.

"We have over 350,000 people enrolled, and I want to underscore that that was done without additional money from the state,” she explained.

Gee says expansion saves the state’s general fund $314 million over two years.  Savings which help fund other agencies.

“Medicaid expansion was godsend for our budget," says Gee.  "Think about an additional $314 million of cuts or $314 million in new revenue raisers that we would have needed to put in place. This has helped us avoid cuts to other programs and priorities including higher education.”

But with a budget shortfall potentially approaching $600 million, some committee members took issue with a budget increase.

Baton Rouge Representative Rick Edmonds (R) asked about cuts.

“I think what I’m looking for," he says, "is for somebody to look from the top to the bottom and really saying is there a total restructuring necessary, is there an elimination of programs that needs to occur?”

Prairieville Representative Tony Bacala (R) says “some things we have in this state we need to pay for, they are necessary. Some of these things in this book are luxuries that we can do without.”

Dr. Gee agreed the state’s fiscal reality must be kept in mind.

However, she added, “we also have to deal with the reality that we’re a poor state that has really sick people in it.  We’ve disinvested in public health and we've done that over the past eight years.  What you’re starting to see nationally - you’re seeing it here as a result of some of these cuts - we have infectious diseases climbing, syphilis, Chlamydia, and gonorrhea.”

"This is our proposed budget," explained Gee, suggesting that changes are expected in the Governor's executive budget, due February 24th.