Health and Human Services budgets up for review Friday at Nevada Legislature | NevadaAppeal.com

Health and Human Services budgets up for review Friday at Nevada Legislature

A joint subcommittee of Senate Finance and the Assembly Ways and Means committees begins its in-depth review of the governor’s proposed Health and Human Services budgets today.

The programs run out of Director Mike Willden’s office are first up. Lawmakers have already raised questions about the plan to take $28 million a year in property tax money that goes into the Indigent Accident Fund.

County officials say that would expose some of them to potential bankruptcy from lawsuits over medical bills generated by accidents. Most at risk are the small rural counties.

“They’re going to be creating a long-term, devastating problem that’s going to have to be dealt with by the counties,” said Nye commissioner Joni Eastley in a recent interview. “Where are we going to find the money?”

 The fund was created about 20 yeas ago to limit the financial damage to hospitals and rural counties and stop the endless litigation between them over who should pay for indigents’ hospital bills.

Lawmakers have also objected to plans to eliminate state funding for the 211 phone system. The governor’s office has been promoting 211 as a resource for people facing foreclosure to call for referrals to help agencies.

The plan also would eliminate the tribal suicide prevention grant of $150,000 a year.

In the Division of Aging Services budget, lawmakers have objected to reducing the rates paid to personal care attendants by $3 an hour to $15.52.

The second joint subcommittee meeting today deals with budgets of the Department of Business and Industry. The issue raised there is the governor’s plan to merge the Mortgage  Lending Division and Financial Institutions Division. With the mortgage and housing crisis, some have questioned whether that would reduce oversight of those industries at a time when the state should be tightening regulation of them.

Both meetings begin at 8 a.m.

The Senate has canceled its floor session for Friday, allowing senators from southern Nevada and the rural counties to go home before noon for the weekend. The Assembly plans to convene at 11 a.m. but the agenda is expected to be short.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.