Alvarado defends budget, Medicaid funding
As the governor requested, the Kentucky Senate passed its version of the state budget and went home Thursday night. The legislature is expected to return a week later, on March 26, for a final vote on the House and Senate compromise and finish the regular session.
During a press conference on the coronavirus emergency Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear said he was “disappointed” in the Republican Senate’s spending bill, in part because of what he said was a cut in funding of Medicaid and teachers’ health insurance benefits at a time when there is a great need for medical coverage.
Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a Clark County Republican, disagrees.
“What I saw in that version of the budget was a cut to Medicaid, which we’re going to have more people on than ever,” Beshear was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “What I saw was a cut of dollars to make sure every child is signed up for Medicaid. In a national pandemic, don’t you all think every child should have health care? I do.”
“The amount of Medicaid funding, I think, was adequate,” said Alvarado, who is a Winchester physician. “To imply that we somehow cut Medicaid funding, I disagree.”
Alvarado said the Senate also did not underfund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.
“As a pediatrician, I know that every child is covered,” he said.
As for the teachers’ benefits, he said, their health care trust fund has been “in the black” for a long time, and there should be enough funding to cover for the next eight to 10 years.
Because of the effect of the coronavirus on the economy, including extension of the income tax filing deadline until July 15, the Senate put as much money as possible in its “rainy day” reserve trust fund.
The new fiscal year begins July 1, so there won’t be a lot of new revenue coming in.
“We are going to have a massive shortfall for this exisitng budget,” he said.
Alvarado said that while the full legislature is not in session until next Thursday, a conference committee will continue to meet and work out differences in the budget plans.
The governor also has his version of the budget.
When lawmakers return next week, he said he expects they will pass a bill, SB 150, to provide financial relief for businesses and unemployment relief related to the COVID-19 illness.
Alvarado said he was consulted about coronavirus concerns in the Capitol, and he recommended as a doctor that no one should be there other than legislators and that there should be hand sanitizer at every desk and no physical contact, and that older members should be allowed to go home because the illness is most debilitating and dangerous to people over 60.
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