House Republicans Criticize States’ Considering Use of Medicaid Stimulus Funding for Other Projects
Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday released a draft report criticizing some states' efforts to use Medicaid funding from the federal economic stimulus package to fill budget gaps or avoid tax increases, among other uses, Politico reports (Frates, Politico, 4/14). The draft report names eight states that are considering diverting Medicaid funds to other uses: Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Virginia and West Virginia.
According to the report, "This practice undermines the promise that stimulus funds would be 'targeted,'" adding, "By exploiting a loophole in the stimulus legislation, states are effectively able to use federal funds intended for health care spending for whatever projects they choose and without obligation to adhere to federal transparency and accountability rules attached to stimulus funds."
In the report, committee ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) writes that there is no way to ensure the programs maintain coverage at pre-recession levels, adding that by diverting part of the total $87 billion slated for Medicaid, state programs could be forced to decrease reimbursement rates to health care providers (Edney, CongressDaily, 4/14). Kurt Bardella, a spokesperson for the Republican members of the committee, said such actions constitute "fraud and abuse" and should serve as a warning to lawmakers about similar actions in the future (Politico, 4/14).
CMS has indicated that it does not consider diverting Medicaid funds a violation of the stimulus bill (CongressDaily, 4/14). An Obama administration official said that Congress intended to grant states flexibility in using the Medicaid funds to make state money available for other uses. The official said, "Across the country, states' budgets are being strained by the economic crisis. Now, Recovery Act dollars are protecting health care coverage for millions of Americans and helping states fund critical operations and create jobs," adding, "That's exactly what the Recovery Act was designed to do" (Politico, 4/14).
Issa in the report writes that Congress should ensure that regardless of how the money is spent, stimulus Medicaid funds should meet reporting and accountability standards (CongressDaily, 4/14). Jenny Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for the Democratic members of the oversight committee, said staff had not yet reviewed the report (Politico, 4/14).