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A Look at Good News with an Eye on the Future

A New Year always presents an opportunity to look back and look ahead and the crucial issues we have faced and will meet head on in the coming months.

Amid last month’s flurry of debate and voting on health care reform legislation, there was a bit of good news that came out of the Department of Health and Human Services. The department announced the award of more than $72 million to nine states for making significant progress in enrolling children in health coverage through Medicaid and improving access to children’s coverage through Medicaid and the state children’s health insurance program. Funding for the “performance bonuses” was included in the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization (CHIPRA) law.  CHIPRA also set performance goals that states must meet to qualify for a bonus.  The press release also pointed out that a short-term boost in Medicaid reimbursement rates authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) also provided relief to states with suffering economies, enabling them to extend care to eligible children.

Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations within the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), had this to say:

“In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, decisive action in ARRA and CHIPRA, along with focused state activity, helped ensure that children got the health care they need. We are pleased to see the success these states have achieved as well as the actions to enroll eligible children taken by other states that we expect may qualify for the bonus next year.”

It was, in fact, great news. But the real issue of the day is what’s going to happen a year from now when the enhanced ARRA funding runs out and we’ve failed to dig out of the recession or implement health care reform. How will states that are barely hanging on meet their mission for children – let alone their overall Medicaid responsibilities?

States could be facing serious hardship in the years ahead. Meanwhile, it sometimes seems as though folks in Washington don’t understand what it means to live and work in an environment where budgets must be balanced on an annual basis. Without sustained help, states will continue to struggle to provide very important health care coverage in the very near future.

So while we celebrate and enjoy the benefits of ARRA and CHIPRA, it’s important to remember we need to keep discussion going about the very near and potentially disastrous future ahead when it comes to health care at the state level.

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