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Legislative panel backs taking $40 million in indigent funds from UMC

CARSON CITY — A disgusted county lobbyist said today that the University Medical Center will go another $40 million in the red and smaller counties such as Lincoln could go bankrupt because of the Legislature’s decision taking $50 million that rightfully belongs to counties and hospitals.

“I have to ask for your help (to add back the funds),” Nevada Association of Counties Director Jeff Fontaine told a joint Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee. “The counties need the money.”

Earlier the subcommittee voted to back Gov. Jim Gibbons’ budget proposal to take nearly $50 million in indigent accident funds that normally would go to the county hospitals over the next two years.

During the December special session, Gibbons and legislators took another $25 million in indigent accident funds that the hospitals would have received during the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

At the meeting, the subcommittee also decided:

—To reject Gibbons’ move to cap enrollment in Nevada Check Up, a health care program for poor children. Now 22,437 children are enrolled in the program and Gibbons wanted to cap it at 25,000. As many as 31,000 children are expected to join the program in the next two years, an increase that will cost about $2.8 million.

—To reject Gibbons’ plan to cut by another 5 percent what the state pays hospitals to treat Medicaid patients. This step will cost $20 million.

—To provide prenatal care benefits to 227 poor women at a cost of $800,000 Gibbons wanted to kill the program.

—To set a $17-an-hour pay rate for personal care attendants who provide baths, do simple chores and perform other services for people unable to do care for themselves. Gibbons had wanted to cut the rate from $18.52 per hour to $15.52 per hour. The change adds $6.2 million to the budget.

—To reduce by one hour the time personal care attendants spend helping people unable to care for themselves. The change, recommended by Gibbons, saves $8 million.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said after the hearing she did not yet have a good estimate on the total amount of revenue added back by legislators to Gibbons’ budget request.

She said she wishes legislators did not have to cut any spending, but without revenue they don’t have much choice.

The most controversial decision today was the one to take the indigent accident fund from the counties and hospitals.

 

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

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