Calling For State Medicaid Aid In Economic Stimulus Package
A coalition of more than 70unions, health care organizations and community groups is lobbying Congress toinclude a temporary increase in the federal medical assistance percentage forMedicaid in an economic stimulus package, CongressDaily reports.The coalition on Thursday in a letter to House and Senate leaders wrote,"To avert slashing fire, police and education in response to fallingproperty tax revenues, many local governments are now beseeching their statesto help fill the gap. But that puts an even greater pressure at the state levelon programs like (SCHIP) and Medicaid" (Johnson, CongressDaily,1/25).
The letter continued, "As a condition of receiving the enhanced FMAP,states should be barred from reducing Medicaid eligibility as was the case in2003," when states received fiscal relief. In addition, the coalitionwrote that in the last recession, Medicaid cuts "caused one millionfamilies and children to be cut off or denied Medicaid" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 1/25).
Coalition members include AFL-CIO, the AmericanFederation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the American Hospital Association, the American HealthCare Association,the Association of Community Organizations forReform Now andMoveOn.org (CongressDaily, 1/25).
According to CongressDaily,Bush administration and House leaders are hoping to conclude negotiations onthe package this week and send it to the floor for a vote (Cohn/Johnson, CongressDaily,1/28). The package is "the first of what are likely to be several stimulusplans put forward on Capitol Hill in coming months and the one most likely tobecome law," as items that do not make it into this package "could betaken up in a longer-term stimulus plan," according to the Christian Science Monitor (Russell Chaddock/Scherer, ChristianScience Monitor, 1/28).
The Senate Finance Committee on Friday discussed includingMedicaid provisions in its version of the legislation. Sen. Gordon Smith(R-Ore.) said the committee had "a good discussion" about a temporaryincrease in federal Medicaid spending but added, "I think there's generalsupport for it, but an unwillingness to scuttle the package over it" (CQHealthBeat, 1/25). Senate Democrats last week said they would prefer toquickly pass the legislation than to delay it in favor of amendments. Thecommittee will mark up its version of the package this week.
Although "[t]alk has been rampant" about a second bill that wouldinclude additional funding for measures not included in the stimulus package,House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday "appeared to throw coldwater on that idea," according to CongressDaily. She said,"I don't know about any second stimulus plan," despite statements byher office on Thursday that indicated Medicaid funding for states along withother measures could be included in a second bill (CongressDaily,1/28).
The National Governors Association last week asked lawmakers to include as partof a stimulus package $6 billion for Medicaid and $6 billion for block grantsfor states, CQ Today reports. NGA executive director RaymondScheppach said the Senate Finance Committee's mark up "will be our focusin the short run." According to CQ Today, several senatorshave supported adding state aid to the package, including senior members of theFinance Committee such as Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.). According to an NGAsurvey, 18 states face budget gaps this year totaling $14 billion, whileanother 17 states face potential shortfalls totaling $31 billion in fiscal year2009 (Clarke, CQ Today, 1/25).
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