Members of the U.S. Senate have been working overtime through the weekend to get the Stimulus package, voted on in the House of Representatives, back in line with the level President Obama had requested. The $920 billion level that the House passed, was $100 billion more than where the President and the Senate want it to be.
Key in the bill is how much should be spent on Medicaid, and how to divide that money across all of the states. Medicaid, which is the primary source of health care coverage for the poor, children and the elderly in the U.S., is typically one of the top three budget items in every state. The stimulus package calls for almost $90 billion in federal funds to be sent to the states to spend on their Medicaid programs.
Medicaid is the primary payor for residents of nursing homes, and the debate about how much to spend centers around if this money is being spent to support a social program or to help stimulate the economy. On the one hand it is a social program: Medicaid is by definition the payor of last resort for the indigent and the elderly and has become the default funding mechanism for the vast majority of seniors in nursing homes across this country. On the other hand it is critical to the economy: Medicaid is such an integral funding mechanism that the nursing home industry could not exist without it.
If Medicaid funds are cut, that means seniors can not access the care they need and nursing facilities will face the prospect of shutting down or laying people off. In today’s world, Medicaid has become one of the most important budget items in both the federal and every state budget. But, these tough choices will confront us again and again—families need to realize that fact and not just assume it will be there for them when they need it.
To read recent correspondance from United States Senator Olympia Snowe on the stimulus bill and the treatment of Medicaid, click the link below the picture.
To read up to the minute developments on the stimulus bill and any impact on entitlement programs for seniors, click the links below as they are added.
UPDATE February 10, 2009:
Both houses provide $87 billion in additional funds for the Medicaid program, which provides health care to the low income. But the House and Senate differ on the formula to be used in distributing the money, a dispute that pits states against one another rather than Republicans against Democrats.
UPDATE February 11, 2009:
The new version includes help for victims of the recession in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, health coverage and more, as well as billions for states that face the prospect of making deep cuts in their own programs.
UPDATE February 16, 2009:
President Obama signed his $787 billion recovery package into law on Monday with a statement that it would “set our economy on a firmer foundation.”
The president said he would not pretend “that today marks the end of our economic problems.”
“Nor does it constitute all of what we have to do to turn our economy around,” Mr. Obama said at the signing ceremony in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. “But today does mark the beginning of the end, the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans.”