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          Front Page


Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Bingaman Proposes Measure To Boost Medicaid

By Winthrop Quigley
Journal Staff Writer
    SANTA FE Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., proposed legislation Monday that would pump about $72 million more in federal money into New Mexico's Medicaid program.
    Bingaman described his plan at a news conference here as an alternative to Bush administration proposals that he described as "devastating for New Mexico."
    The federal government already pays about $1.4 billion of the $1.9 billion cost of providing health care to the state's low-income children and needy adults.
    Bingaman proposed:
   
  • Changing formulas the federal government uses to allocate funds to states to account for poverty rates and state taxing ability.
       
  • Making the federal government pay for services it requires state Medicaid programs to provide, such as emergency services "delivered to undocumented immigrants."
       
  • Increasing payments to hospitals that provide a "disproportionate share" of service to Medicaid patients.
        The federal government requires states to care for the very poor, mostly children, but allows states to cover additional people under Medicaid if they choose. Federal rules dictate in great detail what services recipients receive.
        President Bush proposed giving states unprecedented new flexibility in determining how to care for those optional recipients. States would get an additional $12.7 billion to implement their changes over seven years. They would pay the money back over the following three years.
        In the last state fiscal year, New Mexico spent $920 million to provide optional services to about 203,000 people, a State Human Services Department spokeswoman said.
        Bingaman called the Bush plan a block grant that stops the growth in federal Medicaid spending.
        "Our growth in trying to meet the need doesn't stop," he said.
        "We need to be working to expand coverage rather than walking away and leaving the states with the problem," Bingaman said.
        State Human Services secretary Pamela S. Hyde said the funding Bush proposed "isn't nearly enough."
        "It ends up putting back on the states the tough decisions about covering optional categories of people and covering optional services without increasing federal participation," she said.
        Gov. Bill Richardson, the federal liaison for the Democratic Governors Association, said he would begin lobbying for Bingaman's plan in Washington this month.