Pain and Priorities for Health and Human Services Cuts

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Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby held the first of three sessions today to lay out the state budget predicament and solicit ideas about the best way to make cuts in her department. When asked if she expected to cut about 280 million dollars (a rumor that's been around for a month or more), the Secretary said that 280 million is well short of the 7% reduction Governor Patrick has suggested. Bigby said the priority will be to preserve services for the state's most vulnerable citizens. She told the group at today's meeting, which included some hospital executives, that if their reimbursement rates are trimmed, the state will try to make sure hospitals don't recoup those losses by increasing charges to health insurance companies.

Many participants left, grim faced, for further meetings and conference calls. They plan to submit budget cutting options to the administration tomorrow. Governor Patrick and top members of his administration are having dozens of meetings with non-profit groups, business leaders and mayors as they look for the most efficient and least painful ways to trim state spending. Nonprofit group leaders have suggested repealing the film tax credit, requiring a defined contribution from universities that don't pay property taxes and drawing more money from the rainy day fund.

The Governor is not expected to reduce spending to cover the uninsured. Secretary Bigby reiterated the Governor's pledge to accelerate health care cost control efforts; but there are few details about how the administration would do that. Aides say Governor Patrick will announce budget cuts next week.

Martha Bebinger

This program aired on October 8, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.