Health help in the balance…

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an economic recovery bill, with virtually all Democrats in support, and all Republicans in opposition. The vote of the California delegation was entirely down party lines.

The bill has lots of important health provisions, as outlined by Robert Pear in the New York Times. This includes an increase in Medicaid matching funds, funding for health information technology, and for those who are becoming unemployed and uninsured due to recession, subsidies for COBRA coverage and a temporary expansion of Medicaid.

The Senate is working on their own version of the economic recovery, with many of the same elements, but some important differences.

Given California’s particularly high 9.3% (!) unemployment rate, our state has a particular interest in two differences:
* The House version offers full federal funding for a temporary expansion in Medicaid for those who are on unemployment or who meet certain income requirements. The Senate does not include this provision at all.
* The House formula for federal Medicaid matching funds partially takes into account the state’s economic climate (such as a high unemployment rate). The Senate version has much less targeting, and the difference for California could be over a billion dollars.

California advocates have a big interest in seeing the House health care provisions prevail, either as the Senate continues to amend and adjust their proposal, or in conference committee.

Also yesterday, SCHIP was up for debate in the U.S. Senate, and all the hostile amendments from Republicans have been defeated, so far. There’s talk that a final vote could happen today.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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