KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Governors Want Flexibility From Federal Officials On Health Issues

The National Governors Association is meeting in Washington this weekend and some of the state leaders spoke out about their difficulties funding health programs and flexibility and changes they would like to see from the federal government. 

The New York Times: Governors Look For Means To Cope With Budgets Governors Look For Means To Cope With Budgets
Democratic governors warned Saturday that federal budget cuts could crimp a fragile economic recovery, and governors of both major parties asked the Obama administration to give them more flexibility in running education and health care programs so that they could cope. ... As part of the fiscal stimulus package signed by President Obama in early 2009, Congress provided extra money to the states for Medicaid and schools, but that will end in a few months, a loss that (Washington Gov. Christine) Gregoire said was "not unexpected." "We know there is no new money coming to the states," Ms. Gregoire said, but further cuts in federal grant programs could "undermine the economic recovery in our states." ... Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a Republican, said: "If we could get Medicaid as a block grant with total flexibility to run the program as we see fit, I would be willing to take a cap on growth of 2 percent a year. Many governors feel that way." There is no cap on federal and state Medicaid spending, and anyone who meets the eligibility requirements is entitled to coverage (Pear, 2/26).

The Washington Post: Governors Warn Against U.S. Budget Cuts
Several governors said there appeared to be some bipartisan agreement on the desire for more flexibility from the Health and Human Services Department to deal with the new demands on the states for expanding Medicaid under President Obama's new health-care law. Beebe said there was "a lot of consensus on Medicaid" among the governors on the desire to be able to manage the programs themselves. "What the federal government can do for us is not money, it's flexibility," said Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R). "Let us run our states with the resources we have" (Balz, 2/27).

The Hill: Governors To Congress: Don't Make Our Lives Any Harder
Governors are particularly worried about deep budget cuts proposed by the Republican-led House in its Continuing Resolution, including cuts to Medicaid and education funding and the termination of the Workforce Investment Act that's helping 8 million unemployed Americans find work. The cuts would come just as states are set to lose millions of dollars this year as the 2009 Recovery Act's temporary boost in Medicaid and education funding dries up. State leaders said they've cut spending by more than $75 billion -- or 10.7 percent -- over the past two years but still face a cumulative budget shortfall of $175 billion (Pecquet, 2/26).

Politico: Shumlin: House GOP Playing Politics With Lives
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said there could be dire -- potentially fatal -- human consequences if House Republicans get their way on short-term budget cuts. The Democrat raised the specter that the poor could freeze or starve, and women could be denied health care if the GOP prevails in a fiscal showdown threatening to shut down the federal government. "It's a killer for us," Shumlin told POLITICO Saturday at the National Governors Association winter meeting. "This continuing resolution would kill us because we're all trying to balance our budgets, but you start throwing 25 percent of your kids off of Head Start, you're going to pay for it later on." He also worried about the prospect of women losing access to health care -- and stuck up for Planned Parenthood, a group that has been under assail by House Republicans. "We've got 10 Planned Parenthood clinics in Vermont providing critical health care services to low-income women. We have more pregnancies. We have more disease. They test for breast cancer and cervical cancer funding all the time" (Hohmann, 2/26).

Politico: LePage's Wish List: Flexibility
Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Saturday that health care reform legislation is "the biggest crisis facing the states" is the new health care law. The Republican complained about the law's inflexibility, its mandates and its uncertain future given several lawsuits challenging its legality currently wending their way through federal court. "The difficulty is a judge in Florida struck it down as unconstitutional, but the Obama administration said we're moving forward with it," he told POLITICO at the National Governors Association winter meeting. "What is it, folks? We are caught in the middle." LePage said he wants to reduce the level of Medicaid coverage in his state. He said that the state covers people living at up to 200 percent of the poverty line, even though the federal government mandates that they only cover up to 133 percent. "We don't have the money to stay there, but we're being forced to stay there," he said. "That's a crisis for us" (Hohmann, 2/26).

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