09 January 2010

Manchin Puts Price Tag on Health Care Legislation for W.Va.

Gov. Joe Manchin estimates that federal health care legislation could end up costing West Virginia's state government $725 million if the U.S. House version prevails, or $150 million if the U.S. Senate version holds sway, The Associated Press reports.

Each price tag appears to involve expansions to the Medicaid insurance program, which now covers the disabled, children in low-income families, and in some cases their parents.

AP offers a side-by-side comparison of the House- and Senate-passed bills, as does the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The AP overview says that in the Senate's bill, Medicaid's income eligibility levels are "likely to be standardized to 133% of poverty - $29,327 a year for a family of four - for parents, children and pregnant women. Federal government would pick up the full cost of the expansion during the first three years."

As for the House version, "the program would be expanded to cover all individuals under age 65 with incomes up to 150% of the federal poverty level, which is $33,075 per year for a family of four. The federal government would pick up the full cost of the expansion in 2013 and 2014; thereafter the federal government would pay 91% and states would pay 9%," the comparison said.

Manchin offered the cost estimates during Friday's AP Legislative Lookahead conference, and also suggested that hiking the cigarette tax could help West Virginia cover the resulting cost increases.

"West Virginia has the nation's highest adult smoking rate of adult smokers," the article noted. "Its cigarette tax is among the lowest, at 55 cents per pack."

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