Paying for Medicaid

    Critics say Pennsylvania Governor Rendell is building his health care budget around uncertain funding from the federal government.

    Critics say Pennsylvania Governor Rendell is building his health care budget around uncertain funding from the federal government.

    [audio:100223tehealth.mp3]

    As cash-strapped families lose private health insurance, more Pennsylvanians are turning to government plans such as Medicaid. Governor Rendell’s budget counts on 850 million in federal dollars to help pay for increased Medicaid spending, but Congress hasn’t signed off on the money yet.

    Matt Baker is Republican chairman of Pennsylvania’s state House health committee.

    Baker: If we pass a budget expecting $800 million that does not arrive to us by the time the October federal budget is due, then we have a nearly a billion-dollar hole in our budget that we have to recover from somehow.

    Even if Pennsylvania does receive the federal funds, Baker says, Rendell is creating big problems for the next governor by relying on one-time funding.

    The governor’s spokesman says the federal funds are designed to help Pennsylvania meet its Medicaid obligations during a down economy. Gary Tuma says the hope is that once the recession subsides state revenues will grow and fewer people will need Medicaid help.

    More than 2 million people are enrolled in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program now, and the rolls are expected to grow by 3 percent in the coming fiscal year.

    Lawmakers on the state House appropriations committee are scheduled to discuss the governor’s Medicaid budget on Wednesday afternoon.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.