19 January 2010

Medicaid, Math and Health Care in W.Va.

Lawmakers and health care advocates are challenging the hefty cost estimates that the Manchin administration has attached to the U.S. House and Senate versions of federal health care legislation, The Associated Press and others report.

AP's Tom Breen writes that the problem may lie with how the state Department of Health and Human Resources arrived at putting a price tag on the bills.

"The DHHR estimate is based on the assumption that 260,000 uninsured residents would be newly eligible for, and enrolled in, Medicaid coverage," the article said. "According to a U.S. Census estimate released last September, there are roughly 271,000 West Virginians without health insurance. There's no way 260,000 of them would be eligible for Medicaid under either the House or the Senate plan, said Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care."

Breen also writes that "the estimates have been cited by opponents of the health care legislation who say the bills will be a crushing financial burden for state governments."

One such critic, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, seized on the estimates in a press release last week. That, in turn, spurred articles in The Journal of Martinsburg and The Intelligencer of Wheeling.

The Charleston Gazette first raised questions with the estimates last week, citing health care reform advocates who compared the DHHR figures to Census data. The article also notes that the bandied-about estimates are total, and not annual figures, and that federal funds offered in each version to offset initial Medicaid cost increases for states.

The Gazette follows up with the reaction of such lawmakers as House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne. "Perdue said his staffers believe DHHR's estimate may have doubled the actual cost, after examining the projections," that article said.

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