Governors Ask For $40B For Medicaid Programs
President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday met with 49 governors and governors-elect during a meeting of the National Governors Association in Philadelphia to discuss an economic stimulus package that could include additional federal Medicaid funds for states, the North Jersey Herald News reports (Jackson/Reitmeyer, North Jersey Herald News, 12/3).
As a result of the current economic recession, many states face large budget deficits and increased costs because of declines in revenue and increased enrollment in state programs (Smitherman/Dresser, Baltimore Sun, 12/3). Twenty states have reduced their fiscal year 2009 budgets by a combined $7.6 billion, and 30 expect additional deficits of more than $30 billion, according to NGA (Parsons, "The Swamp," Chicago Tribune, 12/2).
During the two-hour meeting, the governors requested a total of $176 billion (Diaz, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/2). The request included $40 billion for Medicaid over two years through an increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (Riskind, Columbus Dispatch, 12/3). Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) said that Obama also discussed a proposal under which the federal government would cover the total cost of new Medicaid beneficiaries who enroll in the program because they lost their jobs and health insurance as a result of the recession.
According to USA Today, Obama during the meeting "reassured" the governors that he would include financial assistance for states in a stimulus package (Hall/Wolf, USA Today, 12/3). Congressional leaders have said that they plan to prepare a stimulus package that Obama could sign when he takes office on Jan. 20, 2009, and the governors "pledged to build support for the plan," the Baltimore Sun reports (Baltimore Sun, 12/3). The stimulus package might include as much $500 billion in funds (USA Today, 12/3). Senior Democratic aides maintain that leaders will make "key decisions" about the stimulus package by the end of the week, according to the Wall Street Journal (Weisman, Wall Street Journal, 12/3).
Democratic congressional leaders plan to approve several bills early in the 111th Congress that received "considerable bipartisan support" this year but were blocked by Republican lawmakers or the Bush administration, the Wall Street Journal reports. Although an economic stimulus bill -- potentially including additional funding for state Medicaid programs -- is the highest priority, Democrats also will aim for "low-hanging fruit," such as an expansion of SCHIP and a repeal of President Bush's ban on embryonic stem cell research, according to the Journal.
While these smaller measures could be inserted into other bills likely to be proposed, such as a comprehensive health care plan, "passing them as stand-alone measures could earn bigger headlines and political benefits," the Journal reports (Bendavid, Wall Street Journal, 12/3).
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