Congress Gives States Little to Celebrate at the Fiscal New Year – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

When I served as an aide in the Ohio Legislature, an
annual tradition was the Rockin’ Fiscal New Year’s Eve Party, held on June 30th as a way for staffers to mark the end of the state’s fiscal year (and every
other year, the end of a grueling budget process).  With or without rockin’ parties, 46 states end their fiscal
years on June 30 and they will begin fiscal 2011 without the federal Medicaid
support most of them counted on. 
That extra support has helped states through one of the worst fiscal
crises on record and has been vital in stabilizing Medicaid coverage for
children and others in families facing job loss
.  The U.S. Senate last week failed to advance a bill that
would have continued the federal government’s commitment to enhanced Medicaid
funding through the end of fiscal 2011–instead, under current law, that support
will dry up halfway through the year. 

Congress’s failure to provide extra funds for Medicaid
will potentially have a real impact on many families who are still struggling
to stay afloat through the recession, depending on state policymakers’
responses.  The health reform law
will keep states from cutting back on eligibility levels or procedures for
Medicaid and CHIP
, but states may react to the decline in federal Medicaid
support in other harmful ways. 
They might choose to cut payment rates to doctors and hospitals or make
it tougher for families to get Medicaid or CHIP coverage by cutting state
workers who process applications. 
Either of these steps could mean preventing kids from getting the care
they need.

While it’s still possible that Congress will continue the
needed Medicaid support before it expires in December, state lawmakers who
thought they had completed their 2011 budgets will likely have some more tough
choices to make in coming months. 
Advocates for kids and families will be working to show that the smart
choice is to protect the health coverage that keeps kids healthy and helps
families through the recession. 

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