Governors Join Republicans in Concerns on Health Bill

New York Times
July 19, 2009

The nation’s governors, Democrats as well as Republicans, voiced deep concern Sunday about the shape of the health care bill emerging from Congress, fearing that the federal government is about to hand them expensive new Medicaid obligations without providing the money to pay for them.

The role of the states in a restructured health care system dominated the National Governors Association’s summer meeting here this weekend — with bipartisan animosity voiced against the Obama administration’s plan during a closed-door luncheon on Saturday and in a private meeting on Sunday afternoon with the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius.“I think the governors would all agree that what we don’t want from the federal government is unfunded mandates,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican who is the group’s incoming chairman. “We can’t have the Congress impose requirements that we are forced to absorb beyond our capacity to do so.”

The governors’ backlash creates yet another health care headache for the Obama administration, which has tried to recruit state leaders to pressure members of Congress to wrap up their fitful negotiations. In its effort to win support for the health plan, the Obama administration dispatched Ms. Sebelius — who was governor of Kansas before she joined the cabinet in April — and the federal Medicaid chief, Cindy Mann, to meet here with the governors. Meanwhle, other administration officials spent Sunday pushing the proposal on television talk shows.

President Obama also plans to address questions about his health plan at a news conference on Wednesday.

Although many governors said significant change was needed, they said their deep-seated fiscal troubles made it a terrible time to shift costs to the states. With the recession draining states of tax revenues even as their Medicaid rolls are surging, the National Governors Association projects that states will face aggregate deficits of $200 billion over the next three years.

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