Democrats Divided Over Medicaid Budget Cuts
Democrats in Congress and some Democratic governors are divided over a House budget plan (HR 4241) that would reduce Medicaid spending, the Washington Post reports. Although congressional Democrats universally oppose the plan, some Democratic governors are "quietly supporting" the bill and "questioning the party's reflexive denunciations," the Post reports. The plan, which was approved by the House Nov. 18, would reduce Medicaid spending by $12 billion through 2010 and $48 billion over the next 10 years, in part by making it more difficult for seniors to transfer assets to qualify for Medicaid nursing home care coverage.
The plan would save $2.4 billion over five years by permitting states to charge beneficiaries higher copayments, premiums and deductibles and $3.9 billion by reducing preventive care and screenings for children and pregnant women. According to the Post, the divide demonstrates the "differing interests" of congressional Democrats -- who are "out of power and struggling to capitalize on the declining popularity of their adversaries" -- and the "more pragmatic approach" of Democratic governors.
Democrats in Congress say the House budget plan undermines the party's ideals, while some governors say the provisions are necessary to ease states' rising Medicaid costs.
Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association, said some of the most divisive provisions in the House bill were adapted from a plan created over the summer by a bipartisan task force of governors, led by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D). "The House has worked very closely with us," Scheppach said, adding, "From our standpoint, Republicans and Democrats saw this very similarly at the state level." The Post notes that gubernatorial support of the Medicaid cuts "may not be universal," as Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) asked Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) to oppose increased cost-sharing.
Thomas Khan, Democratic staff director of the House Budget Committee, said, "All Democrats agree strongly that cuts in Medicaid, especially those that hurt poor beneficiaries, should not be used to pay for tax cuts, especially those geared toward those at the top" (Weisman, Washington Post, 11/28).