In test vote, senators reject extending Medicaid assistance to states

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Gov. Beverly Perdue (D)
Gov. Beverly Perdue (D)

The Senate said "no" in a key test vote Wednesday to a jobs bill that contains nearly $25 billion in additional Medicaid assistance for states. But the chamber still could pass a scaled-down version of the bill later this week.

The vote comes amid growing pressure from governors and healthcare providers to restore the Medicaid assistance to financially beleaguered states. A recently passed House version of the bill did not include the funds. On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) joined North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue (D) in telling reporters on a conference call that the loss of the Medicaid funds would send “shockwaves” through state budgets nationwide.

Later Wednesday, Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) unveiled a slimmed-down version of the jobs bill. It still would contain the extension of the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) to states. It also would provide doctors a six-month reprieve from a scheduled pay cut, instead of relief through 2011. If approved by the full Senate, the bill would move back to the House for another vote. A temporary hold on Medicare physician reimbursements placed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ends Friday.