Not only does Gov. Dannel P. Malloy want greater control over state agency spending, but he also wants greater control over federal entitlements like Medicaid.
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes told the Human Services Committee Thursday that the administration would like to repeal a provision that allows the Human Services and Appropriations Committee to approve Medicaid waivers.
“The additional state requirement of a subsequent public hearing and legislative review is unnecessary in light of the rigorous public notice and input process,” Barnes told the committee.
He said it would enable the Department of Social Services to redirect staff time and resources to provide core services to the public.
But lawmakers, who changed the law back in 2007 with a veto override to give themselves a say over these waivers, were insulted by the proposal.
“If we aren’t informed, we cannot help our constituents,” Rep. Catherine Abercrombie, D-Meriden, told Barnes.
Abercrombie, who co-chairs the Human Services Committee, said she’s sees no reason the legislature shouldn’t have this authority.
She said if the two committees don’t act within 30 days of a waiver or amendment being submitted then it’s deemed approved. In the last two years, lawmakers have allowed the 30 day period to lapse because they were in favor of what was happening.
“I cannot support taking the legislative authority away,” Abercrombie said. “It’s just not something I can support at this point.”
Waivers to the Medicaid program can waivers can be used to expand services or to cut services and restructure services in a way that could hurt consumers.
The only time in recent memory that lawmakers did block a proposal made by the administration was in December when it voted against plans to outsource case management work for a brain injury program.
Several family members of brain injury victims came and spoke against Malloy’s proposal Thursday.
Dominic Cotton, who owns a company that helps people with brain injuries, said repealing legislative oversight would remove public hearings and the opportunity to have meaningful input from stakeholders. He said the administration often tries to propose waivers as a way to save money and not help those who benefit from the waiver.
Elaine Burns, president of the CT Brain Injury Support Network, said that there were 13 slots that were supposed to open up for people on the Acquired Brain Injury wait list, until the waiver was denied by the two legislative committees back in December.
“This is now not a budget issues, as some slots have recently become funded, but the Department of Social Services still refuses to fill them due to the sudden discovery of being too short staffed to do so,” Burns said Thursday.
She said the governor and his administration are “holding these 13 people hostage.”
Other advocates also spoke out against repealing the legislative process for Medicaid waivers.
Barnes declined to engage in a back and forth debate about the issue when confronted by legislators.