EAST HARTFORD—Nurses, patients, and advocates gathered Tuesday at Riverside Health & Rehabilitative Center in East Hartford to sign a 10-foot long petition urging members of Congress to act quickly on a bill that increases Medicaid reimbursements to the states.
What’s at stake? More than $266 million in federal medical assistance percentage, or FMAP money, in addition to child welfare funds. Connecticut already is counting on the money after including it in the $19.01 billion budget passed by the General Assembly and signed by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
If Congress fails by the end of the week to act on the bill, titled American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, it could drive a more than $365 million stake through the state budget. The state also anticipated $99 million in federal fiscal stabilization funds.
Matthew Barrett, executive vice president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said the legislature already cut $300 million from nursing homes over the next two fiscal years, which makes the increased Medicaid money from Washington D.C. even more important.
Coupled with the $14.5 billion cut in Medicare in the national health care reform bill over the next 10 years, Barrett said, “it’s more important than ever that Congress work quickly to approve the money.”
Without the enhanced FMAP money, Barrett concedes it could have been far worse for the state, but already nursing home administrators like Karen Chatterton are warning residents to prepare for the worst.
“The highest quality of care is being threatened,” Chatterton, chief administrator at Riverside, told a packed room Tuesday. “You need to know these cuts are going to cut the heart out of our facility and other facilities like ours.”
She said if Congress fails to pass the bill it could impact the staffing and labor at the facility.
Francis Cage, a certified nursing assistant at Riverside, reminded residents that “you need more of us, not fewer.”
She said the state cuts to Medicaid and federal cuts to Medicare will impact the care residents receive.
“Now I know something like FMAP could only come right out of Washington,“ Cage joked. But the “extension of Medicaid funding is like a lifeline for what we do here.”
An aide to U.S. Rep. John B. Larson said the congressman “is pushing for the legislation’s passage because he understands how much the FMAP extension within the bill is contingent on maintaining essential medical services throughout the state.” The U.S. Senate is expected to take up the legislation as soon as it’s passed in the U.S. House.
State lawmakers like Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, and Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, said they have been keeping a close eye on what happens in Washington.
“A lot of states are in limbo just like us,” Walker said Tuesday.
The National Conference of State Legislatures and the Federal Funds Information for States organization are monitoring the debate in Washington and are more confident the state will receive the $226 million, but is less certain about the $99 million in stabilization funds.
What happens if the state does not get the money?
While he remained optimistic, Geragosian said state budget revenues ebb and flow and the state could look at dealing with it “in a deficiency manner,” like it does when state agencies spend more than anticipated. He said state revenues are up and adjustments to account for any loss in federal revenue may not even be necessary.