Democrats Finalize Economic Stimulus Package With Additional Medicaid Funds

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Congressional Democrats have begun to finalize the details of a $500 billion economic stimulus package that likely will include additional federal funds for state Medicaid programs, the Wall Street Journal reports. Among other provisions, some Democrats and members of the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama have recommended that the package include $50 billion for state Medicaid programs through an increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage.

During a closed meeting on Tuesday hosted by House Democrats, a number of economists expressed the need for a package of "historic size," according to the Journal. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said that the package could include as much as $700 billion in funds, adding that the "idea is to do triage now and bring the budget into balance later" (Bendavid/Conkey, Wall Street Journal, 12/10).

Economists, Labor Union Leaders Call for $900B Package

More than 150 economists and labor union leaders have proposed a $900 billion, two-year economic stimulus package that includes $70 billion for health care, among other provisions, Bloomberg reports. Supporters of the proposal include Democratic Party adviser James Galbraith, United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney (Chen, Bloomberg, 12/9).

Group Recommends Health Care Reform To Help Address Recession

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The U.S. should pass health care reform legislation, in addition to an economic stimulus package, to help address the current recession, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. According to the report, the U.S. health care system denies many residents "adequate financial access to medical care." The report recommended that the U.S. replace the tax exemption for employees who receive health insurance from employers with subsidies for the purchase of private coverage, as well as reforms to the health insurance market (Vandore, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/9).

Editorial

Many of the provisions that Obama has proposed for his economic stimulus package, such as funds for health care information technology, "offer hope for longer-term prosperity," a Post-Intelligencer editorial states.

The editorial states, "We like the president-elect's emphasis on helping health care with technology to share records efficiently and aiding schools with technology and building programs," but "we also hope there will be attention to the social and economic benefits of keeping strong basic services in health, education and child protection." According to the editorial, a recent study found that not-for-profit providers "not only improve health care for working and poor families but also create thousands of jobs in often hard-pressed urban and rural areas."

In addition, "Obama's proposals for providing both immediate jobs and long-term solutions should extend to mental health," according to the editorial. The editorial states, "As the country cut back on major institutions in the 1980s, there was talk about new support systems in the communities," adding, "Surely, there are enough plans for that long-deferred vision to allow the federal government to act rapidly" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/8).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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