Calls for Congress to extend enhanced Medicaid money mount
Various groups are urging Congress to get into gear and pass an extension to enhanced Medicaid match rates, as the clock ticks toward the June 30 end of the fiscal year.
In March, the Virginia General Assembly passed a budget that included deep cuts to health and human resources, but lawmakers assured the public the budget holes would be plugged once Congress approved the additional Medicaid dollars, known as the enhanced FMAP. But now months have gone by, and though leaders of both parties have expressed support for the increased Medicaid funding, it hasn't been approved.
Without the additional dollars, thousands of low-income children and pregnant women will not be able to enroll in the the state's FAMIS health insurance program. And reimbursement rates for hospitals, nursing homes and other medical providers will be cut by 3 percent in the first year of the two-year budget and 4 percent in the second.
Hospitals are already reimbursed at a rate less than the cost of caring for Medicaid patients. With further cuts, some providers may shy from accepting Medicaid patients. Others that serve large numbers of low-income patients may not be able to survive.
"This will really affect those who are most vulnerable in our community who have already experienced cuts in services and this would impact them even more," said Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun), in a conference call on the issue with Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk).
Meanwhile, a group of five pharmacy groups sent a letter to the senate today also urging passage of the extension of the enhanced federal match.
The enhanced rates were included in the stimulus bill but expire Dec. 31. Congress has been weighing extending them for six more months. Virginia's cuts could still be avoided, even if Congress does not act until the fall. But because the new fiscal year is about to begin, the state must begin implementing those cuts now, before the issue is settled.
June 8, 2010; 2:26 PM ET
Categories: Rosalind Helderman
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