Gregg To Propose $14 Billion Reduction in Medicaid Spending
Senate Budget Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) on Tuesday is expected to propose a budget for fiscal year 2006 that would reduce Medicaid spending by about $14 billion over the next five years, the Wall Street Journal reports. During budget talks Monday with White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, senators discussed both Medicaid and tax cuts. While the proposal's figures could change, Gregg "appears most determined to exact long-term savings from major government-benefit programs such as Medicaid" to meet President Bush's goal to reduce the deficit to $229 billion by 2009, the Journal reports.
Concerning Medicaid spending reductions, Gregg's budget proposal likely would "closely trac[k] the net savings assumed" in Bush's budget, according to the Journal. Bush's budget projects that his proposed Medicaid changes would produce as much as $14 billion in net savings over five years, compared with $9 billion in net savings over the next five years, as projected by the Congressional Budget Office last week (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 3/8). The House Budget Committee is expected to release details of its budget proposal Wednesday, according to a spokesperson (CQ HealthBeat, 3/7).
Responding to a Feb. 24 Journal editorial that criticized him "both for seeking to expand Medicaid to affluent Americans and for opposing such an expansion," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) writes in a Journal letter to the editor that he has "only one position: ... Medicaid's fiscal integrity must be protected." He writes that in the 1990s he supported a trial program in several states that permitted "individuals who purchase private long-term care insurance to keep more of their own money when qualifying for Medicaid." According to Waxman, such a trial might "generate savings for Medicaid if fewer individuals go on to require Medicaid-financed nursing-home care."
The trial also could indicate that "Medicaid's costs have increased as wealthier individuals take advantage of a new shelter in order to qualify for benefits at taxpayer expense," he writes. Waxman concludes that he "will take a position on how Medicaid should proceed" when "expert analyses of the states' experiences are presented" (Waxman, Wall Street Journal, 3/8).