House Passes Economic Stimulus Package Without Medicaid Funding

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TheHouse on Tuesday voted 385-35 to approve a $146 billion economicstimulus package (HR 5140) that does notinclude a temporary increase in the federal medical assistancepercentage for states' Medicaid programs, the AP/RichmondTimes-Dispatch reports. Thebill faces a "murky future in the Senate," as senatorsfavor a larger package that could include Medicaid funding, accordingto the AP/Times-Dispatch(Hirschfeld Davis, AP/RichmondTimes-Dispatch, 1/29).

Sen. JayRockefeller (D-W.Va.) during a SenateFinance Committee hearing onWednesday is expected to offer an amendment to the Senate's packagethat would temporarily increase the FMAP, CongressDailyreports. Five committee Democrats on Tuesday sent a letter to FinanceCommittee leaders expressing their support for additional Medicaidfunds. States, unions, health organizations and community groups alsosupport the amendment, "but that might not be enough to win theneeded votes in the committee," according to CongressDaily(Cohn/Johnson, CongressDaily,1/30).

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Supporters of additional Medicaid funding say thatwithout a temporary increase to the FMAP, many people will loseaccess to health care services, as at least 25 states face budgetshortfalls in fiscal year 2009, according to an analysis released bythe Centeron Budget and Policy Prioritieson Monday. According to the analysis, "In the last recession,some 34 states cut eligibility for public health programs, causingwell over one million people to lose health coverage" (Reichard,CQHealthBeat, 1/28).

Thefull Senate could take up the measure as early as this week. However,USAToday reportsthat action on the bill "would slow down if senators seek to addspending for such things as food stamps, Medicaid, low-income heatingassistance" and other programs (Wolfe, USAToday, 1/30).

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SenateMajority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it is unlikely the Senatewill simply accept the House's version without making any changes. Hesaid, "I think that there's 51 Democratic senators withoutexception who believe this package can be made better," addingthat he expects to have enough Republican support to changeit.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she hopes theSenate will "take this bill and run with it," and not addon additional measures. She said, "It's important that this billnot get overloaded. I have a full agenda of things I would like tohave in the package, but we have to contain the price," adding,"We made a decision because that's where we could find ourcommon ground" (AP/RichmondTimes-Dispatch, 1/29).

PresidentBush said, "The temptation is going to be for the Senate to loadit up. We need to get this bill out of the Senate and on my desk sothe checks can get in the hands of our consumers, and our businessescan be assured of the incentives necessary to make investments"(USA Today,1/30).

Reprinted withpermission from kaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery atkaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.

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