Leahy and Sanders Back New Push To Restore Medicaid Relief To Jobs Bill That Senate Will Debate This Week

...Medicaid extension provision would bring $62 m. to Vermont

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced Tuesday that a $24 billion fund to assist states with their Medicaid populations will be included in a jobs bill package now pending action by the full Senate.

The provision backed by Sanders and Leahy would extend for six additional months an enhanced federal funding match to states that was enacted as part of last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  Vermont estimates that extending this Medicaid relief would bring $62 million in additional Medicaid funds to the state, helping with the health care coverage needs of thousands of lower income Vermonters.  The enhanced federal Medicaid match is set to expire at the end of this year unless the extension is approved.    

The House passed a version of the new jobs bill on May 28 but removed the extension of extra Medicaid funding.  The Senate bill filed Tuesday in the Senate, by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), would amend the House-passed bill and includes restoration of the additional Medicaid aid to Vermont and other states.  The bill also contains extensions of several expiring tax provisions, an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, and prevents sharp decreases in physician payments for treating Medicare patients.  The Senate is expected to begin consideration of the bill this week. 

State budgets around the country have heavily relied on the extra Medicaid help to close gaps caused by an increase demand in social services during the economic downturn.  Vermont’s state budget plan for next year anticipates using the added funds to help cover an expected $100 million state budget deficit in 2012, as well as to make investments in long term care, information technology and the Vermont State Hospital.

Leahy said, “The economic downturn has meant that more Vermonters are relying on the Vermont-run Medicaid program for basic health care, and that is straining Vermont’s budget.  Without this extension of federal help, before long our state could be forced to cut essential services and more jobs.”

Sanders said, “In these tough times, Vermont already is doing more than other states to provide health insurance for people who need it most. Supporting the extension of federal support for Medicaid will help Vermont taxpayers and enable state government to provide services to those who need them the most.”

In February, 47 governors, led by Governor Jim Douglas as the chair of the National Governor’s Association (NGA), wrote to congressional leaders asking for the added Medicaid funding.  Leahy and Sanders are also cosponsors of a stand-alone bill (S.3000) to extend the Medicaid help for six more months. 

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