House Committee Expected To Approve Medicaid Budget Cuts
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday is expected to adopt a fiscal year 2006 budget package that would cut about $11 billion from Medicaid, CongressDaily reports.
The committee "has gone through several drafts in recent days," and the package is thought to differ from the one approved earlier this week by the Senate Finance Committee in that it would increase out-of-pocket costs for Medicaid beneficiaries and would not make cuts to Medicare, CongressDaily reports.
The majority of the Finance Committee's $10 billion in cuts comes from Medicare (Heil, CongressDaily, 10/27).
Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) on Tuesday said, "Medicaid is a victim of its own excess," adding, "The program has grown so expansive that it is unsustainable in its current form" (Carey, CQ Today, 10/26). Barton added, "I recognize that some critics will argue that even the most modest reforms will hurt the poor. I would submit to you that Medicaid in its current form is already hurting the poor" (CongressDaily, 10/27).
Committee ranking member John Dingell (D-Mich.) said "needy Americans will pay dearly" under the package, "with the Medicaid safety net being hurt just when it is needed the most" (CQ Today, 10/26).
In addition, AARP is opposed to a provision that would extend from three to five years the "look back" period for seniors who transfer assets before applying for Medicaid. Under the proposal, a person who transferred assets during that period could lose eligibility (CongressDaily, 10/27).
In other budget news, the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday approved its FY 2006 budget reconciliation package, which unlike the Finance Committee package includes no cuts to Medicare, setting up a likely "conference showdown" between the two committees, CQ Today reports.
Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) did not include any changes to Medicare in a draft voted on by the committee.
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) proposed two amendments that would have made the package more similar to the Finance Committee bill. The first amendment would have eliminated the "stabilization fund" created under the 2003 Medicare law to encourage PPOs to participate in the Medicare drug benefit.
The amendment also included a Bush administration plan to offer higher payments to insurers that cover sicker patients and lower payments to insurers that cover healthier patients. Stark's second amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), also would have eliminated the stabilization fund and included a provision in the Finance Committee package that would increase the Medicare physician reimbursement rate by 1%.
Thomas ruled both amendments out of order, saying that the Ways and Means Committee does not have jurisdiction for changes to parts of Medicare (Schuler, CQ Today, 10/26).
On the Senate side, the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday voted 12-10 along party lines to approve a $39.1 billion package of savings for mandatory programs. The package includes the Finance Committee's $10 billion in cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.
Republican leaders plan to bring the reconciliation package -- which exceeds the $34.7 billion in cuts targeted earlier this year -- to the Senate floor for 20 hours of debate beginning Oct. 31.
A final vote is expected Nov. 3 (Dennis, CQ Today, 10/26).
Senate action on other health issues in the budget process is summarized below.
- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has proposed an amendment to the FY 2006 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill (HR 3010) that would provide $2 billion in emergency funding for states to provide "stop-gap" prescription drug coverage for low-income seniors and people with disabilities who receive assistance from Medicaid and state drug assistance programs. Murray expressed concern that such individuals could lose their coverage when the new Medicare prescription drug benefit takes effect on Jan. 1, 2006 (CQ HealthBeat, 10/26).
- Senate conferees on the FY 2006 Agriculture appropriations bill dropped a House-backed provision that would have blocked FDA from enforcing a ban on prescription drug reimportation. The White House had threatened to veto the bill if the measure was not removed (Hunter, CQ Today, 10/26).
- Lobbyists for the generic pharmaceutical industry have been "feverishly looking" for a way to omit a provision in the Finance Committee's reconciliation bill that would increase the percentage that generic drug makers pay to participate in Medicaid (Ackley, Roll Call, 10/27).
President Bush on Wednesday in a speech to the Economic Club of Washington said he is "open to further across-the-board spending cuts" on nonsecurity discretionary spending. Bush said lawmakers should be focused on "restraining the spending appetite of the federal government" (Curl, Washington Times, 10/27).
APM's "Marketplace" on Wednesday reported on budget considerations. The segment includes comments from John Fortier, a research fellow at American Enterprise Institute; Sharon Parrot, director of the welfare reform and income support division at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities; and Stephen Slivinski, director of budget studies at the Cato Institute (Tong, "Marketplace," APM, 10/16). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. NPR's "Morning Edition" on Thursday also reported on the budget. The segment includes comments from Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (Seabrook, "Morning Edition," NPR, 10/27). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.