HHS: States must ask for more Medicaid funds

Jim Frederick

When President Barack Obama signed an emergency federal spending bill Aug. 13, it gave cash-strapped states a chance to share $16.1 billion to extend an enhanced Medicaid spending program, not to mention $10 billion in stopgap funds for teachers in danger of being laid off. But the states still have to ask for it.

That was the message from Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius to all 50 state governors. In an Aug. 16 letter, Sebelius told every state chief executive that the emergency spending measure “can stave off the deep cuts to Medicaid that many had feared, and sustain jobs in hospitals, health centers and communities across the country.” However, she added, “these funds are only available for your state if you request them within 45 days of enactment, or by Sept. 24, 2010.”

The spending bill extends for six months the enhanced federal medical assistance percentage. “The FMAP increase was initially authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act … and is set to expire this December,” the HHS secretary told the governors. “Under the new law, states that request these funds will receive a 3.2 percentage point increase in their FMAP from January to March 2011, and a half percentage point increase from April to June 2011. Additional FMAP increases are available for each calendar quarter during this period for states with high unemployment rates,” Sebelius added.

“I encourage you to take advantage of extended Medicaid support available to you through the Education Jobs and Medical Assistance Act,” Sebelius told the governors. “This new law, along with the Affordable Care Act, will help support jobs and build a healthcare system with lower costs, more choices and higher-quality health care for all Americans.”

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