States Worry Congress May Not Provide Extra Medicaid Funding; AARP Steps In To Advocate For The Cause

The Wall Street Journal: "New York's budget took another blow on Monday, as Congress pulled away from providing more than $1 billion in expected health-care funding. If the money doesn't show up soon, officials warn, there will be layoffs. Senate aides said Monday that a measure to extend unemployment benefits is likely to pass this week, but won't include the extra Medicaid money that Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg had been seeking to plug budget holes. In previous versions of the bill, the money had been included along with unemployment benefits." Senate Democrats have determined that, in order to pass the unemployment bill, other spending would have to be stripped out (Barrett and Saul, 7/20).

Louisville Courier-Journal: "Lawmakers hoping to control costs of the state's fast-growing Medicaid program held Monday the first meeting of a joint House-Senate task force" that was created earlier in the year by the General Assembly. "At Monday's meeting, staff with the Legislative Research Commission provided an overview of the $5.2-billion-a-year health plan for about 800,000 poor and disabled Kentuckians. It prompted plenty of questions from lawmakers, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who wondered about the 'optional' services Medicaid supplies beyond those mandated by the federal government, which provides most of the funding. Among Kentucky's optional services are prescription drug coverage, home health care and dental treatment -- services most other states provide as well" (Yetter, 7/19).

The Hill reports that the AARP has offered a push of its own. "In a letter sent to every member of Congress last Friday, the group warned a failure to provide the additional funding next year 'will harm millions of Americans' — particularly low-income seniors for whom Medicaid is often the only coverage option. … Congress had increased the federal share of Medicaid funding as part of last year's economic stimulus bill, but that money expires at the end of this year — halfway through the budget year of most states." Many states have already built the increased Medicaid funds into their budgets for the year. Democrats wanted the increased dollars, but "GOP concerns over deficit spending have forced supporters of that crusade to scale back their proposal" (Lillis, 7/19).

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