The statement: "Gov. Steve Beshear failed to properly manage the budget, and now we have a $166 million budget hole to fill this year."
Senate President David Williams in a March 14, 2011, e-mail to supporters of his campaign for governor
The ruling: Mostly false
The facts: There is a shortfall in the state Medicaid budget this year, but Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear isn't responsible for most of it, as Republican gubernatorial hopeful David Williams claimed.
State lawmakers began a special session on Monday to patch the hole in Kentucky's Medicaid budget — it's actually $139 million, not $166 million — after House Democrats and Senate Republicans failed to reach a compromise during this year's regular session, which ended last week. If a compromise can't be reached by April 1, Beshear has said Medicaid payments to health care providers will be cut by 35 percent for three months.
How did Kentucky get into this pickle? As it turns out, Williams and other state lawmakers are to blame for most of the shortfall in Medicaid, the $6.5 billion state-federal program that provides health care for about 800,000 poor and disabled Kentuckians.
When approving the state's two-year budget last May, lawmakers assumed the federal government would provide an additional $238 million for Medicaid. Congress did provide additional money to help the states last August, but Kentucky received $138 million — about 58 percent of what lawmakers had budgeted.
When Beshear announced the Medicaid shortfall in September, the governor noted he had repeatedly warned lawmakers, dating back to February 2010, against assuming the federal government would provide more money for Medicaid.
Williams campaign spokesman Scott Jennings counters Beshear eventually relented to lawmakers' preference and called a special session last May to approve a compromise state budget that included the extra federal money. Still, it was lawmakers, not Beshear, who insisted on budgeting federal money that Congress hadn't yet approved.
The remaining $39 million of the Medicaid shortfall is attributable to Beshear's management of Medicaid.
State lawmakers mandated in the budget that Beshear find ways to save $125 million in the Medicaid budget this year. Administration officials acknowledge they expect to save only $86 million this year.
To close the $139 million gap in the Medicaid budget, Beshear has proposed transferring $166.5 million from next year's budget to this year's. The extra $27.5 million will allow the state to process more Medicaid payments at a higher federal match rate that ends June 30.
If lawmakers don't take advantage of the higher federal match rate while it is available, "we are literally leaving money on the table that could be put to good use for Kentucky families," said Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for Beshear.
■ Feb. 12, 2010, "Beshear asks House to reconsider slots plan, says federal bailout iffy," Lexington Herald-Leader
■ Sept. 10, 2010, "Medicaid budget faces huge shortfall," Lexington Herald-Leader.
■ March 15, 2011, statement from Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear.
■ March 15, 2011, statement from Scott Jennings, campaign spokesman for Senate President David Williams