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Washington Examiner: Democrats Step Up Efforts to Pass Medicaid Extension Print
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By William C. Flook, Examiner Staff Writer

© May 27, 2010

Governors and lawmakers stepped up efforts Wednesday to urge passage of a bill carrying billions for state health care costs, including about $800 million to patch Medicaid funding in Maryland and Virginia.

The $200 billion "tax extenders" bill slated for a final vote in the House and Senate this week has been slowed by concerns over deficit spending. Democratic leaders scrambled to win over skeptical legislators balking at a bill that is largely unpaid for, hoping to win passage before the Memorial Day recess.

The battle has been closely watched in Virginia, which would receive $417 million from a six-month infusion of Medicaid funding in the bill, and Maryland, which is set to receive $380 million. The money, which would extend benefits from the federal stimulus package, helped lawmakers in both states forestall vast cuts to services for low-income residents and health care providers.

"I think it's vital to filling in some of those cuts they proposed," said Patrick Hope, a Democratic delegate from Arlington and lobbyist for the American College of Cardiology, who was on Capitol Hill Tuesday advocating for the bill's passage. "If they don't pass this bill, for Virginia it's going to be a pretty significant loss to human services, disability services, to the programs that we use to support children's care and access."

Democrats including Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson separately rallied support for the legislation, as well. Some Democratic House members, however, were still soured to adding to an already staggering federal deficit.

"The issue is much of it is not paid for," said George Burke, spokesman for Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who is leaning against voting for the bill.

While the Medicaid infusion seemed far more certain months ago, Maryland and Virginia approached it differently. Virginia included deep cuts in its two-year budget that would be erased should the money come through, while Maryland was confident enough to write the funds into its spending plan.