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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Without FMAP Extension, More Cuts Loom

This story is from New York, but the FMAP extension problem is part of what is threatening funding for services that support our freedom to live in the community. The US Congress needs to extend FMAP asap! This affects most states, particularly ones facing serious budget crises.

Counties to lose millions in federal medical reimbursements

By Don Lehman Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2010 3:51 pm

The term FMAP may not mean much to the general public, but to local officials they are four very important letters.

The acronym stands for Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, a program that increased Medicaid reimbursement percentages during the recession and expires at the end of the year unless Congress extends it.

Warren County officials are expecting to receive $3.2 million in FMAP funds this year, and were expecting at least a portion of that money next year as well if the reimbursement remained heightened for the first six months of 2011 as expected.

But so far, Congress has not approved an extension and national media reports indicate many think it won’t as a way to rein in expenses.

Not having that money would leave a hole in the Warren County budget that would require a tax increase of 9 percent if budget cuts weren’t made, said Fred Monroe, the Chester supervisor who is chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Monroe sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, and the state’s U.S. senators asking that Congress extend the program.

"It’s an extension everyone thought was going to happen, but it hasn’t happened," Monroe said. "We’re going to have some tough choices if that FMAP money doesn’t come through."

The county will see some savings next year when its contract with the Hudson Falls trash plant ends, but the FMAP loss — along with what many believe is an inevitable cut to state aid when a state budget is passed — will still be a hurdle, Monroe said.

"Our situation isn’t as bad as it was last year, but we’re going to have some heavy lifting without that (FMAP money) and with whatever the state is going to do to us," Monroe said.

In Washington County, FMAP provided $1.8 million this year, and like most states and counties, was leaning on a portion of the money for next year.

"We’re praying for it," said Washington County Administrator Kevin Hayes. "It’s a big hole to go back from if it’s not extended."

Saratoga County hoped to receive $2 million next year under the six-month extension, county Administrator David Wickerham said.

"We all know it’s going to end eventually," he said. "Everyone is going to have to start structuring their budgets so they don’t rely on it."

He questioned why New York’s federal Medicaid reimbursement rate is normally 50 percent, while other states normally receive up to 67 percent, FMAP notwithstanding.

Hayes said the extension was initially included in a federal bill that extended unemployment benefits, but was pulled out before the bill passed.

"Everyone thought the extension was going to pass," Hayes said.

On Thursday, Gov. David Paterson called on the federal government to pass the FMAP extension bill before the House of Representatives leaves for its August recess.

The state expected $2.2 billion next year from FMAP, with another $800 million to go to counties in the state, according to Paterson’s office. Paterson said the state Legislature needs to come up with a contingency plan to deal with the possibility the funding will not be coming.

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