Friday, June 11, 2010

Chicago Sun Times Editorial: More Medicaid funding critical

Chicago Sun Times Editorial: More Medicaid funding critical
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
June 11, 2010,CST-EDT-edit11b.article

It's hard to imagine the State of Illinois' nearly $13 billion budget crisis getting any worse than it is.

But that's exactly what could happen if Congress does not pass a six-month extension of the increased Medicaid funding provided by the federal stimulus package.

Last year, the federal government increased the rate at which it reimbursed states for providing Medicaid. In Illinois, the fed's share of Medicaid funding rose to 62 percent, from 50 percent.

That extra funding will cease at the end of this year, unless Congress votes to extend it.

House leaders considered a six-month extension as part of a larger jobs and tax bill. But the extra $24 billion for Medicaid was stripped from the bill at the insistence of conservative Democrats worried about runaway federal spending.

The measure is now before the Senate.

While lawmakers rightly want to control deficit spending, those concerns are outweighed by the likely harm to states if Medicaid reimbursements aren't kept at current levels.

Not only is enrollment in Medicaid on the rise, but also many states have based their 2011 budgets on the assumption that they will get the extra funding. Illinois stands to lose about $750 million.

Health care for the poor could be reduced, and some states, such as Pennsylvania, could be forced to cut jobs in education and public safety to make up for the shortfall.

The purpose of the stimulus package was to keep people working until the economy rebounds.

Cutting Medicaid reimbursement rates while states are reeling from the recession would have precisely the opposite effect.

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