By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Gov. Jim Gibbons expressed optimism today that Congress will act to extend Medicaid funding that was counted on by state lawmakers in February when they approved an $800 million plan to balance the budget.
Action could come this week in the Senate on a six-month extension of the temporary enhancement of the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), which provides funding for state Medicaid and other health programs. Failure to approve the extension from Jan. 1, 2011 through the end of the 2011 fiscal year would mean the loss of $88.5 million to Nevada, money lawmakers counted on in balancing the current state budget.
“It’s a huge concern to us,” Gibbons said.
But Gibbons said even if the extension is not approved, the shortfall in the budget can be addressed without calling the Legislature into special session.
Gibbons said he does expect Congress to act on the extension, however, since many states face the same funding concerns. There is pressure on Congress to act, he said.
State budget Director Andrew Clinger said the extension has now been made part of a U.S. Senate bill. If approved, then the House would also have to act, he said.
Clinger said he believes that if the shortfall materializes, any budget reductions can be presented to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee for approval rather that the full Legislature which would require Gibbons to call lawmakers into a special session.
But waiting until February when the Legislature is scheduled to meet in its regular session would not work, he said. Spending reductions would have to be implemented much sooner than that, Clinger said.
Groups nationally are weighing in with support for the extension as well.
In a letter to the bipartisan U.S. Senate leadership today, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., five pharmacy associations called on Congress to pass a six-month extension of the FMAP. The additional assistance, which was enacted in 2009, is set to expire at the end of 2010 without further Congressional action.
“While the U.S. economy has shown positive signs of recovering, state finances are expected to continue to suffer at least two more years, with state budget deficits approaching $180 billion,” the associations wrote. “Therefore, continued federal assistance to states at this time is critical as the recession has driven many Americans out of work, increasing reliance on state Medicaid programs.”
Gibbons says special session not needed:
060810Gibbons :12 session for that.”
Gibbons says Congress expected to act
060810Gibbons2 :22 at this point.”
Budget Director Andrew Clinger says IFC can OK reductions if needed
060810Clinger :16 Finance Committee process.”