Ky. congressmen disagree over Medicaid block grant approach in GOP House budget

04/15/2011 10:37 AM

Two Kentucky congressmen sharply disagree over the effects of restructuring how the federal government pays states for the Medicaid program that covers health care for the poor and disabled.

Republican Congressman Brett Guthrie said some governors, such as Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, have asked Congress for more flexibility in Medicaid by converting it into a block grant program, similar to what Congress did with welfare in the 1990s.

Currently, the federal government matches what states pay into the Medicaid system. But that encourages states to expand programs because the federal government pays more than 70 cents for every 30 cents the states pay, Guthrie said.

But Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville said a block grant format would reduce the benefits for the poor and disabled.

This disagreement comes as the U.S. House debates a federal budget proposal for 2012 in which Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin suggested block grants for Medicaid, among other changes.

Guthrie first discussed the potential of proposing block grants for Medicaid on Pure Politics on March 1.

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