TRENTON – The acting commissioner of the state Department of Health and Senior Services was subjected to a hard line of questioning Wednesday by Majority Leader Barbara Buono, (D-18), of Metuchen, on details of the yet-unreleased $300 million global Medicaid waiver application.
Acting Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and her staff responded openly to Buono, who hammered away on a potentially hampering side-effect that other states have agreed to before being granted similar Medicaid waivers.
Buono said Vermont and Rhode Island agreed to a five-year cap on receipt of general federal funding in order to have their global Medicaid waiver approved by the feds.
The cap includes Medicaid funding from Washington, D.C., which Buono said would “shift the financial risk (of future Medicaid payments above this cap) from the federal government to the state.”
“I want to know if there’s a cap included in this waiver?” she asked O’Dowd.
DHSS staffers initially told Buono that the department was reaching out to stakeholders and still preparing the waiver that isn’t expected to be filed – by the Department of Human Services (DHS), not DHSS – until after the fiscal year begins.
Having not been given a definitive answer, Buono asked if the administration would be amenable to including budget language specifically stating that no such federal funding cap would be included in the global waiver.
Without agreeing, O’Dowd said, “My understanding is that there is no such cap in the application,” which satisfied Buono.
Of the $300 million expected from the federal waiver, DHSS is expecting to receive $75 million. The largest share is being applied to programs under DHS, not DHSS.