When citing statistics about Medicaid in state budgets, it is often misleadingly suggested that the program consumes a larger share of state budgets than any other item. This is misleading because the numbers cited to make this point include federal Medicaid matching funds states receive. If federal funds are subtracted and only state spending is examined, Medicaid is a smaller share of state budgets than elementary and secondary education.
Well just last week, the Fact Checker at the Washington Post got it right. Noting the state-federal partnership in Medicaid, Kessler explains the difference between the 22% figure (state and federal spending on Medicaid) and 15% (state general fund spending on Medicaid). As he points out, using the 22% figure obscures that partnership:
If people want to understand the impact the Medicaid is having on state budgets, politicians should begin to use the 15-percent figure — or at the least offer a caveat to the 22-percent number. Otherwise, there might be some Pinocchios in their future.
Hopefully others will follow his lead.