If lawmakers don't approve Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal to increase taxes, representatives of the state's Department of Health and Human Resources says they will be forced to cut funding to programs. Bill Crouch is the new Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary, says some programs, like the Aged and Disabled Waiver Program, might be eliminated entirely.
"Under Medicaid regulations this is one of the optional services provided by West Virginia," he said. "We’re not allowed to cut certain services provided under Medicaid such as acute care services, physician services, [but] we have a list of optional services. And unfortunately many of those such as dental care, physical therapy are just not a lot of dollars, and if we have to reduce spending we’re going to have to go into a couple of our larger programs to make it work."
Crouch said the DHHR has cut 181 million dollars from its budget since 2015. There is nowhere left to trim, he says, without cutting into or eliminating programs like the Aged and Disabled Waiver Program.
The Aged and Disabled Waiver Program helps about 6,000 West Virginians remain as independent as possible by providing an at home caregiver who helps recipients with daily living, essential errands and attend community activities. For those who benefit from it, the program is vital. But it’s also an expensive one with a price tag of about 48 million dollars each year funded through West Virginia Medicaid.
Gov. Justice’s budget proposal aims to keep funding to state agencies like the DHHR stable, but relies on tax increases to do so, which Republican leaders have largely been against.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.