Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Frustrated Governors Speak Out Against Healthcare Bill

Will Washington wise up and listen to the governors?

During a summer meeting of the National Governors Association governors on both sides expressed deep concern about the shape of the healthcare bill emerging from Congress. The overall concern being that the federal government is about to hand them an expensive new Medicaid obligations without providing the money to pay for them.

The governors’ backlash creates yet another healthcare headache for the Obama administration, which has tried to recruit state leaders to pressure members of Congress to wrap up their fitful negotiations. Although many governors said significant change was needed, they said their deep-seated fiscal troubles made it a terrible time to shift costs to the states. With the recession draining states of tax revenues even as their Medicaid rolls are surging, the National Governors Association projects that states will face aggregate deficits of $200 billion over the next three years.

Because the states and the federal government share the cost of Medicaid coverage for low-income people, any increase in eligibility levels, benefits, or payments to doctors would impose new costs on the states unless Washington agrees to absorb them entirely. In at least one of several bills circulating in Congress, the states would eventually pick up a share of the new costs, and the governors fear they cannot count on pledges in other bills that they will be held harmless.

But the sentiment among those who were could not have been more consistent, regardless of political party. The governors said in interviews and public sessions that the bills being drafted in Congress would not do enough to curb the growth in health spending. And they said they were convinced that a major expansion of Medicaid would leave them with heavy costs.

As a governor, my concern is that if we try to cost-shift to the states, we’re not going to be in a position to pick up the tab,’’ said Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington, a Democrat. “I’m personally very concerned about the cost issue, particularly the $1 trillion figures being batted around,’’ said Governor Bill Richardson, the New Mexico Democrat who served in the Clinton Cabinet and ran for president against Obama.

Many governors expressed frustration that the prolonged negotiations in Washington had made it difficult to gauge the potential impact on their budgets. In the latest draft of the Senate Finance Committee’s bill, still being written, the federal government would pick up the extra costs for perhaps five years, but states would then have to pay their normal share. On average, the federal government pays 57 percent, and states pay 43 percent.

This list of indulgences by the governors just adds another log on the fire to Obama's healthcare crisis, and it seems that the Obama Administration has pushed the governors' concerns aside. As state leaders, the President and members of congress should consider the impact that this bill will have on all of the 50 states.

For full text- http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2009/07/20/governors_balk_over_what_healthcare_bill_will_cost_states/?page=2

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