Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell joined a bipartisan group of governors from across the nation Wednesday to urge Congress to extend federal Medicaid assistance to the states, warning that failure to pass it could bring dire economic consequences and lead to dramatic reductions in public services and possibly a double-dip recession.
Connecticut will lose $266 million in federal medical assistance percentage, or FMAP funds, if Congress fails to approve the money. The lost revenue will create a hole in Connecticut’s 2011 fiscal year budget.
(Click here to watch a video of the press conference.)
Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, who hosted the press conference, said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has become a poster child of sorts for the Republican party’s fiscal conservatism, asked Rendell to voice his support for the measure. Rendell said New Jersey would lose $650 million if Congress fails to pass the six-month extension.
“Gov. Christie, I’m sorry he couldn’t be here, but he certainly is the poster governor for making cuts. And he’s made it clear he’s made those cuts and we still need the FMAP extension,” Rendell said.
“We are absolutely counting on these funds,” Rell said. “This isn’t like in blind faith that we’ve decided to count on these dollars.”
She said the House and the Senate have passed versions of this bill and the state felt it was in a good position to count on it.
Even though U.S. Rep. John Larson has said he warned the state not to count on the funds, which are being held up by a handful of Republicans in the U.S. Senate.
“Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die to get there. So there are some who want to see the benefit go through, but not pay for it,” Larson said earlier this month. Still, there are others who believe it’s “too much spending on these people.”
The Medicaid benefit helps support the health needs of low-income and disabled individuals.
“I’d be happy to pay for it I just don’t see people on the other side coming up with the votes to pay for it. So you can’t have your cake and eat it to,” Larson said on June 1 at a Hartford senior center.
The state has already cut in every possible place it can and the caseloads for the Medicaid program continues to increase, Rell said Wednesday.
She said she didn’t want to complain, but in order to receive these funds in the first place the state had to maintain the Medicaid program it was offering. The eligibility for the program increased from 150 percent to 185 percent of the federal poverty level recently and she was unable to lower the eligibility if she still wanted to receive the federal funds.
“It’s a mandate to us. You’re asking us to perform. We’re doing this to the best of our abilities, but we cannot do this on our own,“ Rell said. “We absolutely need the assistance.”
Governors Jennifer Granholm, D-Michigan, Christine Gregoire, D-Washington, Martin O’Malley, D-Maryland, David Paterson D-New York, Mark Parkinson, D-Kansas, Bill Ritter, D-Colorado, Pat Quinn, D-Illinois, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-California, also spoke during the via videoconference.