The 2011 special session of the Kentucky General Assembly, called by Gov. Steve Beshear because lawmakers could not agree on a Medicaid budget bill during the regular session, came to an abrupt end late last Thursday night. In an unusual and politically-charged move, the House concurred with the Senate’s changes to House Bill (HB) 1 after assurances from Gov. Beshear that he will line-item veto specific sections to mirror the original House plan. That plan, HB 305 during the regular session, was the governor’s proposal to transfer $166.5 million in Medicaid from fiscal year 2012 (FY12) to fiscal year 2011 (FY11) and make up the difference in the second year through the implementation of managed care. Managed care, unlike the traditional fee-for-service model, contracts with health care providers and medical facilities to provide care for members at a per capita rate, with a greater emphasis on preventive care and wellness. Currently, this plan is limited to a 16-county area surrounding Louisville called Passport Health Plan.
Because HB 1 is a budget bill, the governor is granted the authority to strike specific sections subject to a veto override by the General Assembly. The governor announced the provisions he would veto on Friday in a news conference. These included the Senate’s across-the-board budget cuts – which included education – and accountability measures that provided an independent auditing firm would verify the governor’s promised savings. He also announced he will veto sections sections of the bill preventing him from restructuring debt or carrying out additional furloughs of state employees. After passing the Senate version of HB 1, the House adjourned sine die, meaning a veto override will not be possible. In the end, if the governor is unable to realize the savings promised, next year’s budget will be more difficult to balance.
The Senate did not take action on a Chamber-supported bill that would have raised the dropout age from 16 to 18. Although expected, this is unfortunate. The Chamber will continue to try to garner the necessary support to address this important issue.