The Maryland Senate voted unanimously on Friday to pass the state’s $58.2 billion operational budget. During the voting session, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle commented on the success of the round of budget negotiations.
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Sen. George Edwards (R – Allegany), a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee, praised the committee’s foresight to largely allocate one-time funding to programs based on how long they can reasonably spend that money over the next few years.
“If we continue to look at it that way…we shouldn’t be going into a structural deficit like we have been for the past few years,” he said. “We have to be aware of the money available, the amount we can pay. We have to keep a good reserve, so that if something happens, we are in a good position to deal with it.
Senator Guy Guzzone (D – Howard), chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, specifically pointed out several sanitary provisions allowances would support. These include an additional 4% increase in tariffs for healthcare providers.
The budget bill now moves to the House, where delegates worked on the Senate counterpart, HB 300organizing several budget hearings for various public bodies and commissions.
Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Del. Kirill Reznik (D – Montgomery), held a budget hearing for the state Medicaid program. According to an analysis by the Department of Legislative Services (DLS), approximately $12 billion was allocated to the Medicaid program for fiscal year 2023, an increase of 1.8% from the previous year.
Notable Medicaid provisions in the budget include $15 million for a managed care organization (MCO) COVID vaccination incentive program. The program is in part due to recommendations from the Senate Vaccine Surveillance Task Force. recommendation that the Department of Health (DOH) is increasing vaccination rates among Maryland’s 500,000 Medicaid recipients, who have lagged behind the general population in comparison. Data from the DLS analysis showed that only 49.6% of Medicaid recipients were at least partially vaccinated, compared to 72% of all Marylanders in early March.
The House also requested an update from the DOH on a spending plan for the remaining federal funds allocated to Home and Community Services (HCBS). According to DLS analysis, approximately 25% of these federal matching funds ($32.1 million) remain to be spent. In late 2021, the DOH issued a request for public comment on recommendations for spending the remaining funds. Common stakeholder responses suggested increasing wages and benefits for workers and reducing waiting lists for HCBS under Medicaid.
Health Care Funding and Medicaid Undersecretary Steve Schuh responded to lawmakers’ requests during the hearing. He said the funding would go towards increasing HCBS provider rates for the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA). He also said the DOH had submitted a request to CMS for spending authority to support peer behavioral health specialists. The remainder of the funding will go to support services for people with substance use disorders until March 31, 2024.