Friday, August 6, 2010

Senate passes bill to continue Medicaid relief

Federal spending on Medicaid will continue at the higher rates established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, or the "stimulus bill"), under legislation passed by the Senate on August 5, which the House is expected to endorse on August 10.

This temporary increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), which is the rate at which the federal government reimburses states for their medical expenses under Medicaid, has been slated to expire December 31, 2010. However, the budgets in almost every state are such that they simply cannot absorb Medicaid expenses at the lower, pre-ARRA, reimbursement rates. The Senate's legislation extends that FMAP increase for 6 months, to June 30, 2011.

Inasmuch as 37 states and the District of Columbia all provide non-emergency medical transportation service to their Medicaid enrollees as a medical expense, reimbursed at the FMAP rate, this legislation will be likely to have a major positive effect on the continued transportation access to health care services for Medicaid enrollees.

Three side issues are of note with regard to this legislation: (1) ARRA also created a program of supplemental "emergency" funding for states' Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs, which continues to be slated for expiration this year; (2) ARRA increased the allowable dollar amount of employees' tax-free transit benefits to $230 per month, but that increase is slated to expire on December 31, 2010; and (3) social media fans have noted that the first announcement calling the House back into session for its August 10 vote on this bill came as a "tweet" from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which is the first time that Twitter was used to conduct official business of the House of Representatives.

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