Kansas City, MO – The economic stimulus package could have effects around the state, bringing in as much as one and half billion dollars to Missouri's Medicaid Program. KCUR's Elana Gordon reports.
The final version of a federal stimulus bill is not clear yet, but both the House and Senate are calling for a temporary increase in funding for Medicaid, the state-run health program for low-income families and people with disabilities.
Amy Blouin, Executive Director of the non-profit analysis and advocacy group, the Missouri Budget Project, says Missouri's Medicaid program could potentially receive a $1.4 billion boost in federal support from the stimulus package over the next three years.
Blouin: "What it means is that the state can protect Medicaid services and can even enhance Medicaid services for people."
Around 800,000 Missourians have Medicaid right now, but some 30,000 thousand apply for it each month. Missouri currently receives about two federal dollars for every dollar it spends on Medicaid services. Blouin says the stimulus package being considered in Congress could raise the matching rate to a little more than three federal dollars for every one state dollar.
Under the House version of the stimulus bill, Blouin also says Missouri could qualify for higher Medicaid matching funds because the state's unemployment rate has gone up so much. That measure and others are now up for debate this week in the Senate.
Many Missouri officials are looking to Congress to shore up the state health program at a time when the state faces a major budgetary shortfall. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already built anticipated stimulus money into his proposed budget for next year, which includes providing Medicaid coverage to an additional 60,000 Missourians. But Senate President Pro Tem, Charlie Shields, says he and others are worried about maintaining the system once federal dollars run out.
"As all these federal dollars flow, you can do some great things with it, but we also realize that the stimulus package stops in two years - and can you build a state budget that will sustain that level of spending? I think the answer is probably not."
Supporters say the additional federal money could free up state dollars and make Medicaid available to a growing number of people who are struggling in the current economic downturn.
Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
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