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Bill could soften impact of proposed cuts

February 21, 2014
Jordan Travis - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - Michigan legislators are pushing to give the state's community mental health agencies an extra $25 million to lessen the impact of a proposed cut to their budgets.

The statewide budget is set to be cut by 66 percent on April 1, Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health Authority Executive Director Ed LaFramboise said. It's part of a plan to take the money the state will save by expanding Medicaid availability and set it aside. That money then would be available when the federal government is no longer footing 100 percent of the costs of the state's Medicaid expansion.

Such a cut would mean the NEMCMH contract between the Michigan Department of Community Health would be cut to $613,000 from slightly more than $1.8 million, LaFramboise said. The agency covers Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties, and served 430 people in 2013 through its general fund budget.

Michigan's Medicaid expansion, called Healthy Michigan, should bring more federal money into the state's health care system, and NEMCMH and other agencies like it should be able to bill Medicaid for their clients covered under the expansion.

"Except what happens when you have an enrollment process that doesn't begin until April 1," he said. "There are 400,000 to 500,000 people in Michigan who might be eligible for the expansion. They are not all going to walk into the DHS office and sign up at once."

Enter an appropriations bill sponsored by Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, to add $25 million to CMH services funding. Kahn chairs the state Senate appropriations committee, and Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, is in charge of the CMH budget. Moolenaar called it a "down payment' to ensure CMH agencies can continue to serve non-Medicaid recipients, and to allow those who qualify for the expansion time to sign up.

"Some of this is uncharted territory where the (Department of Community Health) doesn't know exactly how many people will be covered by the Medicaid expansion, or how many people who are currently receiving non-Medicaid services will then qualify for Medicaid," he said. "I believe it's important that CMH services are not penalized in any way, nor are recipients of CMH services."

The bill passed the Senate 32-6 Thursday, and is now in the state House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee, according to the legislature website.

The bill also requires the Department of Community Health to report by April 1 how much funding CMH services will need to continue services to those ineligible for Medicaid. This information, plus another evaluation in June will serve as the basis for another proposed appropriation in the next several months, Moolenaar said.

LaFramboise said he's optimistic the appropriation will pass in the House of Representatives and be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

"Having said that, we're in the position that we have to start notifying people individually of the potential suspension and termination of their services, effective April 1, if the legislature doesn't act," he said.

Michigan's Medicaid expansion is set to begin April 1, Department of Human Services for Alpena, Alcona and Montmorency counties Executive Director John Keller said. It raises the income threshold to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, and in Alcona, Alpena, Presque Isle and Montmorency counties that could mean an additional 5,800 newly eligible people.

People can apply online, at www.mibridges.michigan.gov, either from home or the kiosk in the DHS lobby, Keller said. They can also apply at the DHS office, at 711 W. Chisholm Street, on or after April 1.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball's Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.

 
 

 

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