Human services cuts and restorations in Sandoval budget spelled out for lawmakers |

Human services cuts and restorations in Sandoval budget spelled out for lawmakers

Some of the deepest budget cuts during the recession seriously affected services to some of Nevada’s most fragile and needy individuals.

Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said the governor’s proposed budget for the coming biennium restores some of the most significant cuts.

“The 2014-15 governor’s budget is a bright spot for me,” he told a joint session of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees on Friday.

He said those cuts included sweeping a number of trust funds – the largest being the Indigent Accident Fund, which provides payments to hospitals which have to care for sick and injured indigents. That fund is generated by a share of property tax revenue counties decades ago agreed to give up to cover those costs. The state took it for the general fund two budget cycles ago.

In the past five years, Willden said the state has taken $110 million from the fund. The governor’s proposed budget returns the proceeds to the fund for the coming biennium.

In addition, he said the state took $40.1 million from the Fund for a Healthy Nevada and $10.7 million from the Trust for Public Health over the past two years. It took $800,000 from the fund for services for those with speech or hearing impediments and $850,000 from the problem gambling account.

With those and several other sweeps, the state took about $164 million during the past five years.

In addition, the state reduced Medicaid provider payments in more than a dozen different service areas, saving more than $50 million a year for the past four fiscal years. Those services range from physical therapy to oxygen therapy, dental services and even in-patient hospital reimbursements.

He said the governor’s proposals restore more than half those cuts in each of the coming two fiscal years.

Those and other restorations to patient care, he said, are designed to “focus on the end of the spectrum where we can advance primary access points, and not have what I call the deep end of the pool.”

“We try to keep people functioning in the community,” Willden said. “Those programs save money when you keep people out of hospitals.”

The committee took no action on the presentations, which Chairman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said were informational in nature aimed particularly at lawmakers who are freshmen or, at least, new to the money committees and may not be aware of some of the cuts that have happened since the start of the recession.