Medicaid: Improving Responsiveness of Federal Assistance to States during Economic Downturns

GAO-11-395 Published: Mar 31, 2011. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 2011.
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In response to the most recent U.S. recession, from December 2007 to June 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). To help states maintain their Medicaid programs and provide states with general fiscal relief, the Recovery Act temporarily increased the federal share of Medicaid funding for states. The federal funding states receive for Medicaid is determined by a statutory formula--the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). The Recovery Act also required GAO to study options for providing a temporary increased FMAP in response to future recessions. GAO reviewed how past recessions affected states' ability to fund Medicaid, examined the responsiveness of past increased FMAP assistance to state needs, and identified options for adjusting the increased FMAP formula for use during future recessions. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed its previous reports on recessions and the increased FMAP and similar work from other organizations. GAO analyzed federal Medicaid data and enrollment data provided by state Medicaid directors. GAO also analyzed labor market data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, state revenue data from the Census Bureau, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's Coincident Indexes to assess states' ability to fund Medicaid during economic downturns. GAO identifies options for Congress to consider but does not make recommendations in this report.

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