Thursday, August 5, 2010

The FMAP Train Comes In

Seems like the Governor, and the State, just caught a little bit of a break, thanks to Senate Democrats (and Maine Republicans).

New Jersey's budget depended on about $570 million in emergency Medicaid money -- more than half the states in the country also relied on the money -- which was to be made available by maintaining a temporary increase in the FMAP, or the percentage of Medicaid money the Federal government reimburses to the states. However, just before New Jersey passed its budget in late June, Senate Republicans in D.C. filibustered a bill extending the FMAP increase for another year (as well as extending unemployment benefits), now that national Republicans are all election year deficit hawks.

The filibuster meant that a whole lot of states had holes in their budgets. New Jersey's budget hole was about $570 million. However, Senate Democrats finally got Senators Snowe and Collins to vote for the bill, breaking the filibuster and freeing up the money for the states.

What's interesting is that the Governor continues to show a willingness to use Federal funds in a manner opposed by his national party. Nationally, Republicans are proposing to rescind ObamaCare; in New Jersey, the Governor is relying on ObamaCare to pay for pharmaceuticals for the elderly, the disabled and the HIV+. Nationally, the Republicans want the Federal government to spend less; in New Jersey, the Governor is taking the increased FMAP money without reservation.

By contrast, Tim Pawlenty wouldn't take Federal money to finance Minnesota's health care programs for the poor. Pawlenty would not allow an increased number of Minnesotans to enter Medicaid before they would otherwise be able (in 2014) because it would have been an approval of the type of big government with which Pawlenty does not agree.

Perhaps all it means is that when Christie seeks higher office, he will be running against Washington. Or as a "maverick," if that term has not been tarnished beyond repair.

In any event, since the budget already assumes the FMAP money will be available, the action by Senate Democrats won't fund anything new. It will just keep next year's deficit down.

UPDATE: The FMAP train came in about $200 million short, which means there's still a pretty sizable hole in the budget.

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