Commissioners defend elder care study funds


LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners Wednesday morning defended their decision to spend $10,000 to assist in development of a plan for long-term care of the elderly.
At a meeting of the Belknap County Delegation's Executive Committee, Chairman Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont) said that the delegation did not make an appropriation for that purpose and questioned the authority of the commissioners to spend the money.
But Commissioner Glen Waring (R-Gilmanton) said the commissioners had been given authority over the manner in which the appropriated funds were spent because the delegation had approved a bottom line number for the budget instead of specified line items.
Sylvia protested that the interpretation was absurd and did not follow the law but Waring said that would be the case if the delegation had approved a line by line budget but that “was not the vote the delegation took.”
The $10,000 is going to the New Hampshire Association of Counties to provide matching funds for the development of a long-term care plan for the elderly which may offer alternatives to the managed care program the state is currently working to implement. The legislature approved $100,000 for the study this year when it passed House Bill 517, with the provision that the counties provide $100,000 as their share of the costs of developing the program.
Delegation Vice Chairman Rep. Ray Howard (R-Alton) said the entire plan for a study is “a boondoggle with money going into private pockets.”
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said the proposed Medicaid changes are so important to the county and its role in taking care of the elderly that “we need to be represented” in exploring alternatives to the managed care program.
Currently, most New Hampshire Medicaid program recipients receive health care services through New Hampshire Medicaid’s Care Management program, which uses two health plans to manage health care for recipients. New Hampshire Healthy Families and Well Sense Health Plan both provide the same services that New Hampshire Medicaid does.
DeVoy said commissioners support exploring options for providing long term services to individuals eligible for Medicaid with a nursing home level of care.
The Executive Committee approved two budget transfers at the meeting, one for $18,850 to pay for higher-than-anticipated interest on debt service, and the other for $1,000 for Belknap County Delegation meeting costs.
The transfers, both from the county's contingency fund, had been sought by Belknap County Commissioners, who said the county needed to borrow an additional $1.5 million in order to fund its operations through the end of the year and would have run out of money by Dec. 17 had it not borrowed the additional money.
The county had been authorized by the delegation earlier this year to borrow as much as $10 million but was advised by its bond counsel that it should borrow only as much as was needed, which at that time of the initial borrowing was $8.1 million.
County Commissioner Waring said it was a timing issue and that was the most that the county could borrow at that time.
He said the need for more money has been brought about by the county spending down its cash reserves at a faster pace than in recent years.