Carson City — Hospitals and county governments fear "grave" consequences for Nevada’s sick and poor if Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $5.8 billion budget isn’t modified to provide more money for health and human services.
The proposal, which requires the Legislature’s approval, would increase spending on such state programs by 4.9 percent to $1.9 billion for 2011-13.
But the new money would be more than offset by increases in caseloads for Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and other medical and social service programs.
The result? More than $275 million cut from existing programs to keep up with recession-driven demand for state services.
"We’ve seen increasing caseloads that I haven’t seen in my entire career in the department," Mike Willden, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, told legislators during a budget meeting Wednesday. "We have less resources. This presents problems."
The Legislative Budget Subcommittee spent the afternoon listening to Willden and others detail how Sandoval’s proposed budget would affect state services. They spent much of the time discussing reductions in rates the state would pay health providers who serve Medicaid patients.
Under the governor’s proposal, reimbursement rates would fall 5 percent to 43 percent, depending on the provider, saving more than $57 million over two years. Some of the biggest proposed cutbacks include 5 percent from inpatient hospital care, which would save $12.6 million, and 11 percent from skilled nursing compensation, which would save nearly $10 million.
"Hospitals cannot continue to sustain these types of reductions," said Bill Welch, president and CEO of the Nevada Hospital Association.
Under the budget plan, Nevada’s counties would face about $135 million in cuts and state services being pushed to the local level.
"At first glance this does more than just give us pause but creates grave concerns," said Constance Brooks, a Clark County senior management analyst who is doing lobbying work in Carson City.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said the testimony suggests Sandoval’s budget needs to change to live up to the governor’s calls for "shared sacrifice."
"Most of the cuts we are hearing disproportionately impact the working people or people who can least afford it," Horsford said.