Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that an economic stimulus package now being considered by Congress should include increases of federal dollars to both Medicaid and the State Childrens Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.
When I speak about the need for major fiscal relief to the states, the principle form we believe it should come in is a temporary increase in the federal share in state Medicaid costs, Greenstein said.
State budgets are already thinly stretched and projected to worsen as the economy slips into a recession. Greenstein said that state deficits over the next two-and-a-half years could total up to $250 billion. To counter that, states will have to raise taxes and cut services across every agency, he said, including healthcare.
The poor are likely to be among the hardest hit, Greenstein said.
The comments were made during a conference call with reporters to debut the liberal think tanks newest projections on poverty. Goldman Sachs projects that unemployment rates will rise to 9% by the fourth quarter of 2009. If that number holds, Greenstein predicts that the number of poor Americans will jump to 10.3 million, with the number of poor children increasing by up to 3.3 million.
Under such a scenario, the Medicaid programoften considered the safety net provider for the poorest familiescould see a sharp spike in enrollment, he said. -- by Matthew DoBias