Governors Riled By Lack Of Input In Health Bill; States Request More Federal Funding For Budget, Medicaid Shortfalls

Politico: "Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas kicked off a National Governors Association summit on health care Monday with an ominous word about the date" and the need to beware the ides of March. "The governors feel like they've gotten the Brutus treatment, too." Earlier in the process, the White House "made overtures to governors ... recognizing that approval from the state leaders was an essential part of getting its message out to voters. But now, Democrats are focused primarily on getting House votes, and the four governors who attended Monday's conference ... expressed frustration over being left out. ... This isn't an easy time to lead a state" (Cogan, 3/16).

The Wall Street Journal: "Strapped states, facing up to $180 billion in budget deficits in the next fiscal year, are going hat in hand to Washington. California wants $6.9 billion in federal money for the next fiscal year, and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he'll have to eliminate state health and welfare programs without it. Illinois, facing a $13 billion deficit that equals roughly half of the state's operating budget, has what it dubs a stimulus team and a group in Washington pressing for additional state aid. Among other things, Illinois is hoping the federal government will keep paying a higher share of Medicaid costs. ... But in Congress, members are balking at further subsidies amid an election-year outcry over the U.S. deficit and federal involvement in the economy. That tension sets up fierce battles as states work out budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1" (Radnofsky, 3/16).

The New York Times: Doctors and patients are dropping out of Medicaid in places around the country such as Flint, Mich. "It has not taken long for communities like Flint to feel the downstream effects of a nationwide torrent of state cuts to Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor and disabled. With states squeezing payments to providers even as the economy fuels explosive growth in enrollment, patients are finding it increasingly difficult to locate doctors and dentists who will accept their coverage. Inevitably, many defer care or wind up in hospital emergency rooms, which are required to take anyone in an urgent condition. ... The inadequacy of Medicaid payments is severe enough that it has become a rare point of agreement in the health care debate between President Obama and Congressional Republicans" (Sack, 3/15).

The Gainesville (Florida) Times: Georgia "Gov. Sonny Perdue's proposal to cut state funds by more than 10 percent for hospitals serving Medicaid patients could cost Northeast Georgia Health System more than $5 million, according to a source with the hospital. Furthermore, Deb Bailey, director of government affairs for the health system, said another proposal by Perdue requiring nonprofit hospitals to pay sales taxes for purchases would cost the hospital an additional $3.5 million. The proposals were made Thursday to deal with a gaping budget shortfall. If approved, they would impact the way Northeast Georgia Health Systems does business, Bailey said. ... Perdue's Medicaid proposal adds to about $15.6 million Northeast Georgia Health Systems lost last year for Medicaid patients, Bailey said. Currently, the system is repaid about 82 percent of the cost of providing service to those patients, she said" (Fielding, 3/16).

The (Columbia, S.C.) State: "With dozens of disability advocates watching from the gallery, the S.C. House voted to add $173.6 million of federal money to the state budget to restore proposed cuts to health care services. The 96-6 vote was the first major decision during what is expected to be a week of floor debate on the House's proposed $5.1 billion state spending plan. Congress has yet to give final approval to the money that extends a more generous federal health care match through June 2011, but House lawmakers are convinced the money will eventually get to S.C." The money would allow state agencies to continue a number of health-related services (O'Connor, 3/16).

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