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Federal Government To Blame

January 8, 2012
Mike Myer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Sometimes you can't win for losing. That's become something of a truism here in West Virginia.

Several years ago, our governors and legislators realized the state couldn't continue making commitments for money we didn't have. Billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities had been built up.

We're paying them down, mostly without increasing taxes to come up with the funding. We in the Mountain State have been doing the right thing. We've faced up to our mistakes and are correcting them.

But Congress and presidents during the past several years seem determined to drown us.

Consider this: In slightly more than a year, state legislators are going to have to find nearly $300 million more than we spend on Medicaid now just to maintain current services.

State Budget Director Mike McKown explained it last week: For the past several years, the state has prudently managed Medicaid, which helps hundreds of thousands of low-income West Virginians pay health care costs. That has helped us build up a modest balance in the Medicaid Trust Fund.

We'll wipe that out during the next budget year (FY 2013), McKown predicted. In addition to taking $150 million to $160 million out of the trust fund, we'll have to find about $115 million in the budget to keep Medicaid afloat.

By FY 2014, without having any trust fund money as a backup, we'll have to spend about $300 million more than we do now on Medicaid. Again, that's at current levels of service.

If "Obamacare," the new national health care law, is not repealed, we'll have to expand Medicaid.

"It's unsustainable," McKown noted. Well, yes. Why can't anyone explain that to President Barack Obama and Congress?

Well, at least the problem will be solved once we find that new $300 million in revenue. Wrong.

As McKown and Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow noted, Medicaid costs are expected to continue increasing, regardless of the national health care law.

Growth is expected at a rate of about 4 percent a year, Muchow explained - far faster than growth in the state's economy.

Unsustainable? That may be the understatement of the year.

Myer can be reached at: Myer@news-register.net.

 
 

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