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Senate budget, like the rest, headed toward booking Medicaid expansion money

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on March 27, 2013 at 2:09 pm with No Comments »
March 27, 2013 2:24 pm
Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee

Lawmakers appear headed toward accepting the Medicaid expansion in President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee have been on board for a while with expanding Medicaid health insurance to cover more than 200,000 additional people. House Republicans recently said their budget would include the expansion, which will reduce state medical costs by snagging federal funds to replace them.

The Republicans and two Democrats in the Senate majority have been coy about it, but their caucus chairwoman, Linda Evans Parlette, was more clear today.

“Everybody will recognize there is a bunch of money to book in the budget, and … as the Senate majority coalition, we are going to put out a budget with no new taxes. So you just have to look at all alternatives,” she said.

So does that mean the budget will include Medicaid expansion? Yes, she said: “We will book money,” she said. “I think every single caucus will.”

How much the state would save is less certain, but savings have been cited at $140 million and higher.

That’s not to say Parlette and other Republicans don’t have qualms.

“Once you sign people up for a program, it’s very difficult to take them off the program, and none of us would want to do that,” Parlette said. She wants states to be given more leeway in their Medicaid spending. “The reality is, there has to be some flexibility given to us at the federal level, given to states to make this program sustainable. And sooner or later I think the federal government will recognize that.”

Parlette said she expects the majority’s budget to emerge next week. One other bit of information about it: Parlette said she believes it will not count on money from marijuana legalization. Like many Democrats, Republicans aren’t confident the promised pot-revenue bonanza will materialize.

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