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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

 1:45 PM 

Doyle, Dem govs. push for Medicaid extension

Extending $24 billion in matching federal funds would be a big help in easing the impact of cutting up to $600 million from the state Medicaid budget, Gov. Jim Doyle said today.

Doyle joined fellow Dem Govs. Chris Gregoire of Washington, Mark Parkinson of Kansas and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania to warn of the potential for huge holes in their state budgets if the feds fails to approve the extension, which would cover the first half of next year.

Wisconsin didn't assume the extension in building its current two-year budget. Still, Doyle said "the failure of Congress to act here will still put enormous pressure on us in the coming year, as it does in every other state."

"We have had to make drastic cuts in our overall Medicaid spending. We have done this at a time when our enrollment has increased by (26) percent," Doyle said. "In order to meet that demand we have been working to cut as much as $600 million over the next two years out of our Medicaid budget."

Doyle said without the funding extension, reaching those savings would be much more difficult. He said that the proposal is simply a matter of finding political common ground, since it has been included in the president's budget and passed in some form by both houses of Congress.

The governor added that the state's workforce is currently 10 percent smaller than at the beginning of the recession. Because the feds appropriated the matching funds through the end of 2010, the state was able to avoid cuts that could have added "another 2 or 3 percent on that" this year.

Doyle said nursing homes could bear the brunt of the end of the matching funds.

"The majority of our Medicaid money goes for nursing home payments," Doyle said. "A lot of nursing homes that are operating on very, very tight budgets would either have to cut back dramatically or they would close."

"The repercussions of the loss of these jobs would be dramatic."

Doyle also said that since the economic downturn has persisted longer than most economists projected, "I think it is suitable that the federal government continue to match that share for another six months."


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