Extending the safety net

Extending the safety net

Marking the 45th anniversary of Medicaid this month, President Obama hailed the program as “an essential partnership between the Federal Government and the States to provide a basic health care safety net for some of the most vulnerable Americans.” It also represents a partnership between the government and the Jewish community: According to the Jewish Federations of North America, Medicaid represents 60 percent of the public revenue brought in by the federation movement and its partner agencies. These agencies are in turn the ultimate community expressions of our dedication to the poor and disadvantaged.

Last week, those who serve the underprivileged celebrated the passage in Congress of a six-month extension of the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage. FMAP determines the formula by which federal funds are allocated to support state Medicaid programs. In turn, those state programs provide funding that help family service agencies and nursing homes deliver essential care. Failing to extend FMAP would have cost the Jewish community $150-$200 million in lost revenue for social services, according to the federation movement.

“Without these funds,” said William Daroff, director of JFNA’s Washington office, “states would have certainly cut back on their Medicaid programs, which would have had an adverse impact on how Jewish communal providers deliver needed care to their respective communities.”

Even in hailing the extension, however, Jewish leaders were disappointed that Congress decided — in part to appease the Republican Senate caucus — to pay for the financial assistance to states by rolling back a temporary increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps for millions of Americans.

That reduction will not go into effect until 2014, and federation officials are already gearing up to fight the reduction. It’s an essential battle for the most vulnerable among us.

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