HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt Signs Medicaid Commission Charter
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Tuesday signed a charter for the Medicaid study commission, according to a notice to be published soon in the Federal Register, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 5/12). The commission, called for in the fiscal year 2006 budget resolution approved by Congress last month, will recommend ways to cut $10 billion from Medicaid over five years and propose longer-term solutions to slow the program's rising costs (California Healthline, 5/10).
Leavitt will appoint the commission's voting members. The commission will have as many as 15 voting members and 18 nonvoting members. The voting members will include Leavitt or his designee; federal Medicaid officials; current or former governors; current or former state Medicaid directors; three health care policy experts from public policy organizations; and other "individuals with expertise in health, finance or administration," according to the charter.
Four Republican and four Democratic legislators will be appointed by congressional leaders as nonvoting commission members. The commission also will be advised by 10 people involved in Medicaid, including state and local officials, consumer advocates and care providers.
The commission is expected to make cost-cutting recommendations by Sept. 1. The charter states that by Dec. 1, 2006, the commission must make "longer-term recommendations on the future of the Medicaid program." According to the charter, the commission will address 10 questions, including, "What are alternatives to Medicaid for the delivery of long-term care?" The commission also will address whether "eligibility, benefits and financing structures for three broad categories of beneficiaries -- including mothers and children, individuals with disabilities and the elderly -- [should] be modified."
Leavitt "rejected bipartisan congressional pleas" for an independent commission appointed by the Institute of Medicine, the Times reports (New York Times, 5/12).
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Tuesday sent a letter to Leavitt urging that the commission be "independent from influence by those in this administration with an agenda unfriendly" to Medicaid. They wrote that having IOM administer the commission would give its findings more credibility. Baucus and Dingell added, "Regardless of any outside recommendations that might be proposed to change Medicaid, the buck must still stop with Congress. We urge that any such commission acknowledge this and make efforts to consult with Congress as it deliberates."
Sens. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and eight additional senators on Tuesday sent a separate letter to Leavitt, stating that an IOM-administered commission is "the best way to ensure that the administration and Congress receive credible, long-range recommendations on how to improve coverage and access to care, quality and cost-effectiveness of services" (CQ HealthBeat, 5/11).
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), speaking on the Senate floor before the budget was approved, said Leavitt would appoint the commission in a manner that "represent[s] a broad range of ideas and points of view." He added that the commission will be "a fair and balanced forum to discuss the needs and challenges of the Medicaid system" (American Health Line, 5/10).