Grassley Could Boycott Federal Medicaid Study Commission
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) might opt not to nominate congressional members to the new Medicaid study commission, according to a Republican Senate committee aide, The Hill reports (Young, The Hill, 6/7). As part of the fiscal year 2006 budget resolution approved by Congress in April, lawmakers established a commission to recommend proposals to eliminate $10 billion from Medicaid over five years. The commission also will recommend long-term proposals to reduce Medicaid costs. Democratic lawmakers on May 26 said that they will not participate in the commission after HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced that he will appoint the 15 voting members and that no members of Congress would have voting positions. The commission will have 15 nonvoting members, which likely will include eight members of Congress.
Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) last week in a letter to Leavitt wrote that members of Congress should have voting positions. In addition, the executive committee of the National Governors Association on Wednesday also said that governors will not participate in the commission (California Healthline, 6/6).
The Senate Finance Committee aide on Friday wrote in an e-mail, "We haven't submitted (a name) and it is still not absolutely clear (to me) that we will." Grassley, who "openly opposed" the amendment that created the panel, could "further undermine the commission's credibility" if he refuses to select a member, The Hill reports. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has asked a senator to join the panel. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) also can appoint commission members. The deadline for nominating voting members was Friday, but nonvoting members still can be nominated.
If Leavitt decides to sit on the panel, he "would find himself in the potentially awkward position of serving on a commission charged with shaping administration policy on Medicaid, while simultaneously representing the administration in talks with Congress," The Hill reports. Leavitt could be called before Congress to testify about Medicaid on behalf of the administration while the commission still is developing its recommendations (The Hill, 6/7).
NGA is "stepping forward to exert more influence" over what could be "major" reforms to Medicaid, CQ HealthBeat reports. Gov. Mark Warner (D-Va.), NGA's chair, and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.), NGA's vice chair, on June 15 plan to detail the governors' plan at a Senate Finance Committee hearing. However, NGA will not decide whether to formally approve the plan until its summer meeting. According to CQ HealthBeat, NGA's plan will address:
- Prescription drug purchasing;
- Cost-sharing strategies;
- Benefit reductions;
- Asset transfers;
- Information technology usage;
- HHS participation in legal challenges to Medicaid waivers;
- Expansion of private coverage;
- Insuring employers against high-cost patients; and
- Alternatives to nursing home care (CQ HealthBeat, 6/6).