Health Care Wrangling Could Delay State Aid

Federal health care reform has been a divisive issue for states, but for some governors seeking immediate budget relief from Capitol Hill, the wrangling over the legislation is causing uncertainty.

The Associated Press reports today (Jan. 26) that Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) is urging congressional action on the stalled health care bill partly so Evergreen State lawmakers can balance their upcoming budget. Gregoire is counting on roughly $1 billion in federal assistance via three different funding sources.

"Two of those sources, however," the AP reports, "were tied to the health-care overhauls being debated in Congress — an effort that has stalled after Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown's election to the Senate last week."

According to the AP, Gregoire said federal lawmakers must bear in mind that the outcome of the health care debate has short-term, in addition to long-term, implications for the states.

"In addition to the Democrats' overarching reasons for supporting the overhaul — lower costs, broader coverage, better results — Gregoire said national leaders must remember that states are banking on more federal aid to make it through this recession-hobbled budget cycle," the AP reports.

Gregoire and a bipartisan group of at least four other governors — California's Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Kansas' Mark Parkinson (D), Missouri's Jay Nixon (D) and South Dakota's Mike Rounds (R) — recently have mentioned the possibility of extra federal money as a way to help balance their upcoming budgets.

Some Republican governors, however, also have sharply criticized the health care legislation as it currently stands, finding particular fault with a deal that would cover the full cost of expanding Nebraska's — but not other states' — Medicaid expansions.