Governors To Testify Before Congressional Committees on Proposals for Medicaid Reform
Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), chair of the National Governors Association, and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), NGA vice chair, on Wednesday are scheduled to testify before the Senate Finance and House Energy and Commerce committees on NGA's proposals to overhaul Medicaid and cut $10 billion in program funding, CongressDaily reports.
One of their "most contentious" proposals would give states the ability to impose higher premiums, deductibles and copayments on some beneficiaries, CongressDaily reports. An NGA policy paper earlier this month stated, "Medicaid's cost-sharing rules, which have not been updated since 1982, prevent states from utilizing market forces and personal responsibility to improve health care delivery." Governors said the cost increases would be limited to a small percentage of beneficiaries' incomes, and they compared the plan to current SCHIP policies.
However, Families USA Director Ron Pollack said, "Increasing certain payments may make a great deal of sense for some populations, but for a population that is low-income and for whom copay or other out-of-pocket cost is required, I think it is going to mean a good many participants won't get the health care they need."
Other proposals the governors might discuss include reducing pharmacy "overpayments" for prescription drugs -- an idea that has concerned pharmacists -- and adding restrictions to prevent seniors from transferring assets in order to qualify for Medicaid-covered nursing home care. NGA earlier this month declined to participate in the new Medicaid study commission currently being organized by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, opting instead to focus on its own proposals (Heil, CongressDaily, 6/15).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Wednesday reported on the NGA testimony on Medicaid and a study released earlier this month by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that found Medicaid beneficiaries pay more out-of-pocket costs and cost sharing for health care as a percentage of their income than U.S. residents with private health insurance. The segment includes comments from Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D); Leighton Ku, a senior fellow in health policy at the center; David Sundwall, executive director of the Utah Department of Health; and Medicaid beneficiaries (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 6/15). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.