Phil Bredesen is taking the lead among the nation’s governors in warning Congress against forcing states to pay a significant chunk of the cost of health care reform.
Bredesen, co-chair for health care policy for the National Governor’s Association, is objecting to a provision in House and Senate bills to expand Medicaid to cover anyone with incomes less than 133 percent of the poverty level, or $29,327 for a family of four.
Since states pay roughly one third of Medicaid, the provision could add billions of dollars in costs to state governments. Bredesen calls it “the mother of all unfunded mandates
,” and he’s been making his case to reporters for weeks now at every opportunity.
“We can’t print money,” he says. “We can’t borrow money. A lot of staffers in Congress really don’t understand this idea of a balanced budget.”
The governor, a former HMO executive, says he favors universal health care, but not if that means added expense to Tennessee’s state government, which already is saddled with a $1 billion annual revenue loss because of the economic meltdown.
“This couldn't come at a worse time for the states,” he says.
The federal government would pick up the new Medicaid costs for two years under bills before Congress. But after that, states would have to pay some of the cost of newly eligible Medicaid recipients.