States Resist Medicaid Growth

Governors Fear For Their Budgets
By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 5, 2009

The nation’s governors are emerging as a formidable lobbying force as health-care reform moves through Congress and states overburdened by the recession brace for the daunting prospect of providing coverage to millions of low-income residents.

The legislation the Senate Finance Committee is expected to approve this week calls for the biggest expansion of Medicaid since its creation in 1965. Under the Senate bill and a similar House proposal, a patchwork state-federal insurance program targeted mainly at children, pregnant women and disabled people would effectively become a Medicare for the poor, a health-care safety net for all people with an annual income below $14,404.

Whether Medicaid can absorb a huge influx of beneficiaries is a matter of grave concern to many governors, who have cut low-income health benefits — along with school funding, prison construction, state jobs and just about everything else — to cope with the most severe economic downturn in decades.

“I can’t think of a worse time for this bill to be coming,” said Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), a member of the National Governors Association’s health-care task force. “I’d love to see it happen. But nobody’s going to put their state into bankruptcy or their education system in the tank for it.”

These fears are resonating with members of Congress and have already yielded some important legislative changes, including alterations to the Senate Finance bill, which includes billions of dollars in additional funding, added after governors raised a fury about the original, lower sum. But House and Senate negotiators are reluctant to make further concessions, and in recent days, House Democrats have debated whether to trim Medicaid funding in their bill to make room for other priorities.

Continues here.

Comments are closed.