The Maryland Senate voted unanimously Friday to pass the state’s $58.2 billion operating budget. During the voting session, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle commented on a successful round of budget negotiations.
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Senator George Edwards (R – Allegany), a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee, commended the committee’s foresight of appropriating largely one-time funding towards programs based on how long they can feasibly spend that money over the next few years.
“If we keep looking at it that way … we should not get into a structural deficit like we have been the last few years,” he said. “We have to be cognizant of the money that’s available, how much we can put out. We need to keep a good reserve, so that if something does happen, we’re in a good position to take care of it.”
Senator Guy Guzzone (D – Howard), chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee, specifically highlighted several health provisions the allocations would support. These include an additional 4% rate increase for health providers.
Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Health and Social Services Subcommittee, chaired by Del. Kirill Reznik (D – Montgomery), held a budgetary hearing for the state Medicaid program. According to an analysis from the Department of Legislative Services (DLS), approximately $12 billion has been slotted for the Medicaid program for FY 2023, a 1.8% increase 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 the Senate Vaccine Oversight Workgroup’s recommendation that the Department of Health (DOH) increase vaccination rates among Maryland’s 500,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, which have lagged behind the general population’s by comparison. Data from the DLS analysis showed only 49.6% of Medicaid recipients were at least partially vaccinated, compared to 72% of all Marylander as of early March.
The House also requested an update from DOH on a spending plan for the remaining federal funds allocated for home and community-based services (HCBS). According to the DLS analysis, approximately 25% of these federal matching funds ($32.1 million) remains to be spent. In late 2021, DOH put out a request for public comment on recommendations for spending the remaining funds. Common stakeholder responses suggested increasing worker wages and benefits, and reducing waitlists for HCBS under Medicaid.
Deputy Secretary for Health Care Financing and Medicaid Steve Schuh responded to legislators’ requests at the hearing. He said funding would go towards HCBS provider rate increases for the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA). He also said that DOH has submitted a request to CMS for spending authority to support behavioral health peer specialists. The rest of the funding will go towards supporting services for individuals with substance use disorders through March 31, 2024.