AUSTIN — Texas doctors, dentists and hospitals could find their Medicaid fees reduced by 1 percent if a budget reduction plan forwarded by the state Health and Human Services Commission is adopted.
HHS Commissioner Tom Suehs said health care providers, including nursing homes and group homes for the mentally disabled, could see a 2 percent reduction when treating adults.
Stephanie Goodman, spokeswoman for the commission, said the commission has not yet adopted the plan.
The budget-cutting proposal also includes reducing the number of beds for psychiatric patients, postponing hiring new food safety inspectors and trimming 10 percent from the money that trauma hospitals receive from the Driver Responsibility Program.
Suehs offered the $304 million in reductions after a request from state leaders for agencies to find ways to trim 5 percent of their budgets to meet a projected budget shortfall.
Texas boosted Medicaid payments for pediatric care and child-dental care in recent years in response to a class-action lawsuit. Some fear that progress in Medicaid care could be undone if the reimbursements are trimmed.
Lottery bid deadline extended
Texas lottery officials have added another 30 days to the deadline for companies to bid on the contract to run the state lottery.
The extra time was added because of possible information-sharing between current lottery vendor GTECH Corp. and a lottery consultant.
Gary Grief, executive director of the state lottery, said companies now have an extra month to bid on the contract while state officials investigate the possible collusion.
GTECH had a contract with consultant Gartner Inc. during the time Gartner was helping Texas lottery officials write bid specifications for a new contract.
GTECH President Jaymin Patel said there was no sharing of information and no conflict of interest. But some state officials believe GTECH might have had a competitive advantage because of the contract with Gartner.
Perry seeks federal reimbursement
Gov. Rick Perry said he will ask the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to reimburse Texas for holding illegal immigrants awaiting deportation or serving prison sentences for crimes.
Perry said Texas spends $13.5 million a month on illegal immigrants, including approximately 9,000 in custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Perry said he intends to send a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asking for the reimbursement.
There’s precedent for the state seeking money back from Uncle Sam. For example, Gov. Ann Richards and others sued the federal government in 1994 seeking $5 billion to care for, educate and incarcerate illegal immigrants.
Eventually $42 million was provided to several states, including Texas, to cover some of those costs.
More details on new jobs program
State officials have launched a new “Texas Back to Work” project that offers incentive payments to businesses that hire unemployed workers.
Earlier this month, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Texas Workforce Commission officials said as many as 15,000 unemployed workers could find jobs through the program.
Texas companies will be eligible for $500 a month for four months for hiring someone who is receiving unemployment insurance or whose unemployment insurance benefits have expired.
Those hired must have earned $15 an hour in their previous jobs, and only private-sector employers qualify for the benefit.
Dewhurst said the Legislature approved $15 million for the program last session and that funding can be extended.
The Workforce Commission has applied for $50 million in federal funding as well. The Texas unemployment rate is at 8.3 percent.
Anti-money laundering pact made
As part of a $94 million settlement, Western Union has reached an agreement with Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico to share information on wire transfers from the United States to fight illegal money laundering.
The agreement also creates the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance.
As part of the settlement, Western Union will provide information regarding certain wire transfers sent to or from authorized Western Union locations within Texas, share Suspicious Activity Reports about wire transfers to and from Texas and the other states and provide information about transactions suspected of having a connection to human trafficking operations.