The feds may help the Basic Health Plan, but with far less money than Cantwell suggests.
State officials said last week that ObamaCare isn't likely to bail out the cash-strapped Basic Health Plan--at least not until 2014, when the bill's major provisions kick in. Yesterday, however, Senator Maria Cantwell said that the president's health care bill will, in fact, come to the rescue of the state program, which offers insurance to low-income people.
In a press conference with the governor, Cantwell trumpeted a provision she pushed for in the bill that she said would allow the state to apply for $180 million in federal funds to keep Basic Health afloat until 2014.
Turns out, that number is considerably inflated, however.
The federal bill doesn't specify exact figures of how much additional Medicaid funding it will offer to states. Rather, those amounts are subject to negotiation between state officials and the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Federal assistance for Basic Health also depends on the state getting a "waiver" that would allow the money to go for people earning more than Medicaid rules normally allow. (Basic Health enrollees make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line.)
Federal officials have been encouraging about the state's chances of getting a waiver, says Jonathan Seib, the governor's top health care policy advisory, who participated in one such negotiating session this afternoon.
But Seib says discussions have centered on giving Washington between 52 and 60 million a year for Basic Health, not $180 million. Still, given that earlier cost-cutting versions of the governor's budget slashed Basic Health altogether, Seib calls the likely federal assistance "very helpful."
The state also might receive more federal assistance down the line that could keep Basic Health running indefinitely. Another provision in the federal bill--authored by Cantwell--allows states to partially opt out of state-run insurance markets, or "exchanges" that will be created. Instead, states would receive money from the feds to run their own program for low-income people--in Washington's case, the Basic Health Plan.