Monday, December 29, 2008

Well, Duh

Gov. David Paterson of New York got some good news yesterday, according to this NY Times article. Part of the Obama stimulus package being contemplated includes money to the states for their Medicaid program.

In what would be a major boost to Gov. David A. Paterson’s efforts to close the largest deficit in state history, New York could gain as much as $5 billion in extra Medicaid financing as part of the stimulus package being drawn up by Congressional leaders and President-elect Barack Obama, Senator Charles E. Schumer said on Sunday.

The $5 billion would represent roughly one-third of the combined budget gap that Mr. Paterson must close for the balance of the fiscal year that ends on March 31 and the following fiscal year. Mr. Schumer, who is a lead negotiator of the package, said that the program as currently drafted would provide states with a total of $80 billion to $100 billion in additional help for Medicaid, apportioned according to existing formulas.

That is indeed good news for New York and the other 49 states, all of whom are having a difficult time balancing their budgets because of dropping revenues and the drying up of the bond markets. Medicaid programs are a substantial part of any state budget, and with unemployment rising and access to health insurance diminishing, costs to the states were eating up even more of state funds. Unfortunately, states have responded to the crisis by cutting services to the recipients and cutting payment rates to the providers, thereby effectively squeezing out segments of people who need health care and segments of providers who will simply refuse to provide it under the program.

The boost to the federal funding flowing to the states for the program is, however, nothing more than a temporary fix. It may staunch the bleeding now, but it's not going to cure the underlying problem. Sooner or later this country is going to have to face up to the need for a single payer program which will provide universal health care access. States would be able to return to the business of providing infrastructure and education. Employers would have a huge cost removed without worrying about whether their employees will be too sick to come to work on a regular basis. And Americans will all be able to get the health care they need when they need it.

This temporary fix may be needed to get us over the hump during these perilous times, but a plan is needed to keep us from being in this kind of downside in the future.



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