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Deficit Reduction Act to Increase V.I. Medicaid Funds

Feb. 3, 2006 – It took an act of the U.S. Congress, but the Virgin Islands is now on tap to get an increase in its federal Medicaid program funding thanks to the passage Wednesday of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. President Bush has to sign the bill, but Brian Modeste, an aid to Delegate Donna M. Christensen, said Friday that the president is expected to sign it.
The territory currently gets $6.9 million to fund the program that provides health care for the poor. Modeste said that in Fiscal Year 2006, the territory will get an additional $2.5 million for a total of $9.4 million. In Fiscal Year 2007, the increase will rise to $5 million for a total of $11.9 million.
"We're really proud of this one," Modeste said.
He said that the local government has to match the funding on a dollar-to-dollar basis, but said the Delegate has been told it won't be a problem.
Modeste said that while the additional funding in itself is good news, the funding increase also means that from Fiscal Year 2008 and onward, inflation increases will be based on the $11.9 million received in 2007.
Schneider Regional Medical Center spokesman Amos Carty Jr. said he hopes the additional money comes to the hospital.
"We're the ones feeling the brunt of the limited amount of Medicaid," he said.
Carty said that historically, the Medicaid money that comes to the territory is first spent on physicians and nursing homes, with the leftovers coming to the hospital.
Christensen release a statement that the additional funding will give territorial delegates the leverage they need to have the Medicaid cap on territorial funding permanently removed.
The territory has a cap on the Medicaid money it receives, but the states have gotten Medicaid on an as-needed basis. However, Modeste said the way the states receive Medicaid funding will be changed under the same bill that increases the territory's funding.
He said that this change in Medicaid funding was a joint effort among the territorial delegates to the U.S. Congress. He said that in addition to Christensen, Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and American Samoa Delegate Eni Faleomaevega were especially instrumental.
Modeste said that help also came from Indiana Rep. Dan Burton, a previous chairman of the House Government Affairs Committee
The measure to increase Medicaid funding was included in a budget reconciliation bill by Texas Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid funding.
Modeste said Christensen started working toward increasing Medicaid when she took office in 1997.
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