As you have probably already heard, Legislature has passed and the Governor has signed a series of budget bills. One thing I know everyone will be glad to hear is that the remaining scheduled mandatory furlough days for this fiscal year and next are canceled. However, individual agencies have the option of using furloughs if necessary (I don’t think it will be necessary for us). Here are some basics related to our Department’s budget.
There’s one change to the budget that I am very excited about. Our Office of Vital Records will become self-supporting. This means that office will no longer be reliant on the State’s General Fund and instead will pay its own way from the fees we collect for our services- allowing us more management flexibility and ensuring that we’re able to maintain our information technology infrastructure and support our county partners.
Most of the ADHS budget reductions this year relate to the Medicaid reform plans contained in the budget bills that impact the behavioral health services we provide. There will be a freeze on new AHCCCS enrollment for the childless adult population and a freeze on temporary aid to needy families with income between 75-100% of the Federal Poverty Level, and elimination of the “spend down” program. However, we believe most of the folks that we serve that have a serious mental illness and are also a childless adult won’t be part of the new enrollment freeze- as most of them will be able to qualify for Medicaid benefits under a category for people with disabilities. We’ll be working for the next couple of weeks to respond to these changes. It is also important to understand that many of the planned changes to eligibility still require Federal approval, either through a waiver of our Maintenance of Effort requirements or approval of AHCCCS’ proposed 1115 Waiver for Arizona’s Medicaid program.
Our operating funds will be 3% lower next fiscal year. Some of the reduction is because we transferred the Children’s Rehabilitative Services Program to AHCCCS and some of it’s for a variety of other reasons. The bottom line is that we will be able to weather this without making any drastic administrative changes.
One of the budget provisions moves the Arizona Biomedical Disease Research Commission over to the ADHS. In the coming weeks we’ll be exploring options for how to manage and house the program- perhaps the best fit would be with the Arizona State Laboratory- but certainly within public health.
The new budget makes some changes to our retirement plan. Beginning July 1st each of us will need to fund 53% of the total retirement contribution rather than the current 50%. The total contribution also increases. For example, a person who has a gross pay of $50K/year would need to contribute about $15 more per week to the retirement plan.
There are also some changes regarding the benefit eligibility of future ADHS employees. Future employees will need to wait 90 days before becoming eligible to participate in health and dental insurance coverage and 6 months before becoming eligible to participate in our retirement system. There’s also an enhanced Medical Savings Account as an alternative (not a replacement) to the standard health insurance benefits for State employees.
There are more budget changes that I’ve described here- but those are the basics. I’ll keep you posted in later updates.