Members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Health Access Oversight wondered Wednesday how their colleagues on the Joint Fiscal Committee could decide to void the Legislature's decision about expanding eligibility to Catamount
Tuesday, as part of the package of $28 million in budget changes to address problem of shrinking state revenues, the Joint Fiscal Committee agreed to cut the funding necessary to cover two changes in who qualifies for the state's Catamount
Health program for the uninsured. The administration also recommended repealing the changes and the committee apparently went along with that suggestion -- for now. The immediate savings would be $81,000, but the future cost is estimated at more than $600,000 a year.
When the Legislature passed the Catamount changes, it directed the Douglas administration to apply by Sept. 1 to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval of an amendment to the state's Medicaid waiver that would allow federal dollars to help cover the expenses for this expansion.
, director of the Office of Vermont Health Access, said she is now caught between conflicting directives from legislators. Statute demands she file a letter with CMS
, while the Joint Fiscal's vote suggests the application would be pointless.
The health oversight committee felt it had been left out of the loop and some members -- particularly Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden
, questioned what authority allowed the Joint Fiscal Committee to reverse a legislative policy decision.
This isn't the first time legislators who aren't on the Joint Fiscal Committee have chafed at the power that panel has -- most notably when budgets cuts are required after the Legislature adjourns.
Rep. Paul Poirier
, I-Barre, proposed last winter that the Joint Fiscal Committee be stripped of its power to approve budget cuts. If changes are needed, Poirier said the governor should have to call the full Legislature back into session.
Lawmakers chose instead to rewrite some of the rules for off-season budget decisions, including a new requirement for a public hearing.
For now, however, the Joint Fiscal Committee still has "the power," but legislators on the health access oversight panel have asked for some legal advice about the limits of that power.
-- Nancy Remsen
Labels: Catamount Health, Doug Racine, Joint Fiscal Committee, politics Vermont Legislature