- Associated Press - Thursday, June 17, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — If Congress doesn’t approve $24 billion to help cover states’ costs for care to the poor and disabled, Virginia will have to confront a $165 million hole in its budget caused by federal health care reforms.

Virginia Finance Secretary Ric Brown delivered the news to the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.

Congress has balked at extending the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage program through next June. And without the FMAP extension, Virginia’s cash-poor budget for the next two years would have to be squeezed for another $165 million, Mr. Brown said.

Virginia’s budget for 2011 and 2012 anticipates more than $430 million in FMAP extension funds. That would cover the $162 million in expanded services and much more. If Congress doesn’t OK the extension, people dependent on the program will see sharp reductions in services.

Other states are in a predicament similar to Virginia. About 30 have incorporated anticipated FMAP cash into their budgets for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

If the federal government won’t provide it, there will be fewer options for Medicaid patients but it would force Virginia and other states nationally to lay off thousands of workers.

State Sen. Janet Howell, a member of the Finance Committee, said budget writers were confident of the federal money when they were cobbling the no-frills 2011-12 budget in late February and March.

“We all thought it was going to happen then. But now?” said Mrs. Howell, D-Fairfax County.

The reductions in service would also affect hospitals, doctors, dentists, in-home care professionals and other medical services Medicaid underwrites.




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