The economic downturn and resulting decreased revenues have forced Governor Patrick into difficult decisions. The result has been significant, and often dramatic, cuts to state health programs – even those designed to serve individuals and families in the most need.
Across the country, other states are similarly feeling the pinch, and Congress has been considering options to help. One potential opportunity to lessen the impact of budget cuts on the health care system is a short-term increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP. FMAP is the percentage that the federal government reimburses to the states for Medicaid expenses. Because Massachusetts is one of the richer states, we receive the minimum – 50%.
FMAP can be a powerful tool that the federal government can use to inject cash into the economy, protect jobs, and help states support their health care system during a recession. In 2003, Congress raised the FMAP rate by about 3% across the board. The increase worked out to more that $300 million for Massachusetts which helped the state preserve programs and maintain eligibility rules. T he legislature passed a provision earmarking the additional funds to health care programs.
In the effort to pass an economic stimulus package earlier in the fall, the House of Representatives included an FMAP increase in their proposal. That version died in the Senate, and the bill that eventually passed did not include raising the rate.
In the final weeks of the current Congress, there is a steady buzz about the potential of a new stimulus bill – either during the lame duck period before January, or after President-Elect Obama takes office. All of the Massachusetts health care stakeholders need to join together with the Patrick administration and press Congress to include the help we need. We also need to insure that the funding is used solely to keep vital health care programs afloat. The health care system is hurting, and help needs to come.
Children's Health Coordinator, Health Care For All
This program aired on November 10, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.