Totalling the federal help for health…

A new Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the economic recovery package being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives indicates that $88 billion would be provided for states through increased Medicaid matching funds.

Their state-by-state breakdown indicates that California could get $11,069,212,000 over 9 quarters–although given that the formula is based on the economic climate in each state, the figure is not certain. Another caveat is that this is the current House version, but presumably there will be changes as this is considered over the next few weeks. We need to continue to press for:
* an even higher amount of overall funding for state and Medicaid, and
* a formula, like the one in the House, that considers the economic situation of the state (California has been particularly hard hit, and has a high unemployment rate, and the help should recognize that fact).

As proposed, this will significantly help Medi-Cal and health care in California. What it won’t do is solve the overall budget crisis. The overall deficit for 2008-09, and 2009-10, is projected at $42 billion. The House economic recovery package is estimated to provide $3,612,818,000 in 2008-09, and $4,911,064 in 2009-10. (The remaining $2,545,330 comes in the 2010-11 budget year.) That’s $8.5 billion that can be attributed to our $42 billion problem–a help, but it still leaves California in dire straits.

In other words, the Medicaid matching fund increase is a necessary but not sufficient part of the budget solution. Even with such significant aid, it still leaves tough choices–including the need to raise taxes and revenues, to prevent devastating cuts.

The aid does clarify some of the tough choices. It makes it even clearer that cuts to Medi-Cal and other health services are counterproductive, both in hurting our economy, and losing these federal dollars. It was insane to cut Medi-Cal when we were getting a one-to-one match for federal dollars. Under this bill, we would be getting even more–and each cut would have over twice the impact to our health system and our economy.

We will continue to need to raise revenues to sustain these programs, and to draw down these new and ongoing federal dollars. But this help would be more than enough to prevent current health cuts, restore previous health cuts, and do some targeted expansions, for children and adults, so that these safety-net programs serve their intended purpose in a downturn, and meet the increased needs of Californians.

But before we get to that discussion, California advocates, and legislators, need to continue to make the case for California getting all the help it needs.

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

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