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Vt. officials decry proposed Medicaid change

April 7, 2011
Staff Writer

BENNINGTON — Changes to Medicaid outlined in the House GOP’s federal budget plan are likely to harm Vermont’s health programs, according to a Shumlin administration official.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the chairman of the House Budget Committee, outlined sweeping cuts and changes in a proposed federal budget this week. The proposal would turn Medicaid into block grant program, meaning states would receive a set amount of federal funding. Currently, Medicaid allows states to design programs and states are provided an uncapped match. As annual costs go up the federal match also goes up.

State Agency of Human Services Secretary Doug Racine said the GOP plan to turn Medicaid into a block grant program would shift costs to the state or force program cuts.

“Either state tax dollars have to go up to continue the services that we’ve been sharing with the federal government, or you start cutting services,” Racine said.

The state offers several health care plans through Medicaid, Racine said, including Dr. Dynasaur and Catamount Health. The programs provide mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment, Racine said, and serve low-income Vermonters and people with disabilities.

Vermont received a waiver about six years ago to expand programs. Those additional programs may not be available under block grant funding, Racine said.

“We’ve got a real concern here if the federal government continues to implement what’s been talked about,” Racine said. “Until they start putting some real numbers down it’s hard to respond.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin and 16 other Democratic governors have sent a letter to leaders in Congress opposing the idea.

“The current Medicaid financial structure is a partnership between federal and state government that provides basic access to health care for the poor and disabled,” the governors wrote. “A Medicaid block grant imposed unilaterally by Congress on all states that would cap the federal government’s share of costs and provide fixed annual funding below the projected growth of program costs is simply unacceptable.”

The governors expressed concern that costs will be shifted to states.

Contact Neal P. Goswami

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 7, 2011 8:31 am

    “The governors expressed concern that costs will be shifted to states.” I like Ryan’s plan even more now. The states need to step up and be more responsible for it’s citizens. If states had to foot the bill for it’s citizens it would be more concerned with helping their citizens succeed.

    Right now states don’t care how worthless their citizens become because the Federal government will give them someone else’s money to make up the difference.

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