- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan’s House signaled Tuesday it won’t try to block the proposed merger of the state’s Community Health and Human Services departments but will seek cost savings as a result.

A budget approved unanimously for Community Health by a House Appropriations subcommittee included about $2.2 million less from current funding levels for administrative costs, its estimate of what could be saved by a merger.

The House Republican majority will let the merger advance, House Speaker Kevin Cotter’s spokesman Gideon D’Assandro confirmed.

“We have some questions, and we are still going to make sure that the administration and departments do the best job possible to maximize efficiencies,” he added.

The merger, proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder in a recent executive order, could be stopped if a majority of both the Senate and House voted for disapproval before it takes effect April 10. Neither chamber’s Republican majority appears interested in that tactic, despite intense questioning of DCH Director Nick Lyon about the merger during a joint committee hearing last month.

Lyon, who will head the combined agency, said he understands the House’s desire to see savings, but he added that DHS is just finishing a round of layoffs after a $7.5 million cut in the current fiscal year budget.

“They’ve put numbers in play, but they haven’t told me where they would expect me to take those administrative savings yet,” he said.

The Senate Appropriations subcommittee version of the DCH budget, however, does not include the House’s assumed savings from the merger.

The House and Senate versions of the DCH budget both had at least one significant difference from Snyder’s budget proposal last month. Snyder wants to increase the Health Insurance Claims Assessment, which collects money from health insurers, from 0.75 percent to 1.3 percent to help ensure a federal match is secured for the Medicaid program.

The House and Senate said existing state resources can be used instead, but it isn’t clear where that money will be taken from.

The House’s proposed Human Services budget also was approved Tuesday along party lines. It included language that would require the new Health and Human Services department to submit a monthly report on the merger’s progress, including notes on the number of full-time employee positions, efficiencies and estimated savings or costs associated with the merger.

A Senate Appropriations subcommittee will present its DHS budget Thursday.


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