Finally some very good fiscal news for states and schools! The U.S. Senate voted 61 to 39 Thursday to pass a deficit-neutral bill that provides funding to states for Medicaid relief and education. The House plans to take up the bill, H.R. 1586, next week, probably on Tuesday, August 10. Although House passage seems likely, it is by no means assured.
The bill is expected to save Wisconsin about $185 million in the state share of Medicaid spending, and our state should receive about $180 million for education. How the education funding will be used in Wisconsin is still unclear. The Medicaid relief will help the state close a large portion of the $300 million shortfall in the state share of funding for Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus.
A comprehensive WCCF report issued Thursday examines the role that enhanced federal Medicaid cost-sharing has played in helping Wisconsin cope with a huge drop in employer-sponsored insurance during the recession. We analyzed trends in employment and in BadgerCare Plus participation since October 1, 2008, when the enhanced Medicaid funding took effect. You can find a synopsis of the report in the WCCF press release.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the offsets used to make H.R. 1586 deficit neutral is a cut in 2014 to a Recovery Act increase in food stamp benefit levels. That change will reduce food stamp levels for at least a few years (compared to the current level set by the Recovery Act), until the formula for indexing food stamp benefits raises them back to the present level. It’s disappointing to see that change used as one of the offsets, and some food advocates are fighting the bill. Unfortunately, that change has been proposed in other bills that have come close to passing, and it appears that if it isn’t used as an offset for H.R. 1586 the food stamp cut will soon be used in another bill.
Jon Peacock, project director