Union joins in urging Senate to pass extended Medicaid help for states

Fearful budget cuts would hurt state workers, union urges calls to senators

0 | Medicaid-CHIP

— With Congress poised to take its August recess in a few days, the union that represents state workers in Kansas is urging its members to contact U.S. senators to push for a vote on extended federal Medicaid assistance for states.

The Kansas Organization of State Employees (KOSE) sent an email alert Tuesday to members asking them to "keep the pressure," on senators so that they will vote on the so-called FMAP extension before leaving Washington for late-summer break.

Congress is scheduled to recess Aug. 9, not returning to session until Sept. 12.

As a result of last year's federal economic stimulus law, the federal government has been picking up 70 percent of the cost of state Medicaid programs instead of the traditional 60-40 cost sharing arrangement. That stepped up federal assistance has saved cash-strapped states billions of dollars but is scheduled to lapse Dec. 31, if Congress doesn't act to extend the extra payments another six months.

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, has been among governors from both parties pushing Congress to act on the FMAP extension, which has met stiff and repeated resistance from Republicans in the Senate joined by one or two fiscally conservative Democrats.

Kansas is among about 30 states that have already crafted budgets assuming Congress would approve the extra Medicaid help. So, the Sunflower State faces a potential $131 million budget hole, if Congress fails to act.

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Both Kansas U.S. Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts have voted repeatedly against the FMAP extension, saying it would add too much to the federal deficit. They have said they would support the additional aid to states only if offsetting cuts are made to other federal programs.

The union asked members to call and use the following script:

"Hello, I'd like to speak with the chief of staff or the person who handles Medicaid. I'm calling to demand a vote on extended Medicaid funding (FMAP) before Congress leaves for its August vacation.

More than 900,000 public and private workers - including KOSE members - are going to lose their jobs unless Congress helps with state budget shortfalls. That's that last thing our fragile economic recovery needs right now. And the last thing our national debt needs is nearly a million more Americans out of work, not paying taxes, and relying on government services for help.

Can I count on you to push for a vote on the Senate floor before the August recess?"

The governor has said that about 3,600 Kansas teachers could lose their jobs, if the state doesn't get the expected Medicaid help.