COLUMBIA -- Children, educators and the state's low-income residents getting state health care help stand to lose the most under a spending plan House budget writers tentatively approved Wednesday.
The $5.1 billion proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 calls for slashing prescriptions drugs under Medicaid to no more than three a month instead of up to 10 allowed now. A Medicaid program covering children in low-income households would close to new enrollees. Per-student spending in the state's schools would fall to 1995 levels.
It's a bleak outlook on the most basic services the state provides, but the news was worse in other parts of the budget as most state agencies lost nearly a fifth of their state spending.
The budget proposal includes eliminating $6.5 million in textbooks, $3 million to help failing schools and $2 million from salary supplements to principals, as well as $84.5 million from per-student spending.
The panel also approved increasing the state's cigarette tax by 30 cents a pack. The state's current 7-cent-a-pack tax is the nation's lowest. The increase would raise $88 million, with $85 million of that going to cover Medicaid program costs.
Ways and Means agreed to limit the number of drugs Medicaid patients can get to three. They're currently allowed to get at least four with up to six additional prescriptions. A hard cap of three drugs saves the state $10.7 million in the upcoming budget year.
Meanwhile, $3.3 million would be saved by closing enrollment to Medicaid program that helps children in lower-income household get health care. Now, the program enrolls children whose parents' income is twice the federal poverty level of $22,050 a year for a family of four.
Beginning in July, it would only cover new enrollees with household incomes of up to 150 percent of the poverty level.
There are now 14,800 children enrolled in Medicaid between those two income levels. Edge said none of them would be kicked out of the program, but the state will save money as the children turn 18, move away or are no longer qualified.