U.S. capital can't pay for Medicaid during shutdown

Reuters

WASHINGTON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Washington, D.C., officialssaid on Thursday the U.S. capital was not able to pay hospitals,long-term care providers and other organizations thatparticipate in the Medicaid healthcare program for the poorduring the federal budget shutdown.

Since the District of Columbia is a local government withouta state, the U.S. Congress authorizes its budget when itapproves the federal budget. Congress has been locked in abudget stalemate that allowed the federal government to shutdown Tuesday at the start of the fiscal year.

That meant the city cannot spend any of the $2.7 billion itbudgeted for Medicaid, even though those funds come from its owntax revenues.

The city pays healthcare providers in the Medicaid programand then receives federal reimbursement equal to 70 percent.

"We don't have the authority," said Wayne Turnage, directorof Washington's department of healthcare finance. "We have themoney."

Healthcare providers were expecting to receive $89 millionthis week, Turnage said. The district could use its contingencyreserve fund to cover the amount, but the $144 million fund issupposed to support all city operations during the shutdown, headded.

Most states control their own spending plans, and theshutdown should not affect the U.S. government's Medicaidreimbursements.

Still, the Medicaid program is not immune to the shutdown,especially as federal workers have been furloughed.

Every year, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services,approves and extends hundreds of waivers intended to providestates with funding and operational flexibility, said AndreaMaresca, director of federal policy for the National Associationof Medicaid Directors.

The process frequently takes weeks of negotiations betweenthe states and the center.

"It's unclear what will happen if there aren't workers tonegotiate with states and get those approved," she said. "Thereare things that will sit in somebody's inbox."

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