The head of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals says that the budget heading to the House floor this week would lead to the elimination of waiver programs, loss of medical education programs and shuttering of safety-net hospitals across the state, among other impacts on health care.

House Bill 1, which carries the state budget that begins July 1, was approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Monday after about an hour of discussion on 13 pages of amendments to the spending plan Gov. John Bel Edwards had recommended. It’s scheduled to be taken up by the full House Thursday.

Edwards’ budget called for about a $140 million hit to DHH’s funding.

DHH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee said that the House version of the budget would carve an additional $80 million out of the department’s funding.

“It’s either arbitrary and capricious or it’s leprechaun budgeting and they think we are sitting on a hidden pile of gold,” Gee said. “These are lives that will be impacted and potentially some lost.”

“It would have negative consequences on every individual who accesses health services in the state,” she added. “This new budget is devastating to the lives of the people of this state.”

House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call for comment. Henry presented the amendments on Monday and defended the cuts to DHH as reprioritizing where money raised through tax hikes in the recent special session will go.

The House panel moved to restore funding to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students to prevent the loss of college scholarships.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne’s spokesman Cody Wells confirmed that the administration’s analysis also found the latest version of the budget would lead to the elimination of optional programs, including the waivers that go to medically fragile children, and would likely force the private partners that run safety-net hospitals to walk away from deeply-slashed contracts

“The impacts that these cuts will have to DHH and the services that the department provides will be devastating,” Wells said.

The House version of the budget also calls for the defunding of the state Inspector General’s Office, which has brought criticism.

Check back with The Advocate for more details.

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