Leavitt Urges States To Use Cost-Control Tools
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Friday urged states to take advantage of certain provisions in the federal deficit reduction package to reduce Medicaid spending, saying that in some cases, benefits have driven up costs and resulted in a decrease in overall coverage, CQ HealthBeat reports.
In a speech at a meeting sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures, Leavitt said Medicaid programs should focus on providing "basic care" to large numbers of people instead of "unlimited care" for the beneficiaries with the lowest incomes and suggested that "optional" populations receive fewer benefits. He noted that the Deficit Reduction Act allows state Medicaid programs to provide optional populations with "benchmark" packages instead of traditional Medicaid packages and to increase cost-sharing.
Leavitt also said the law authorizes state legislatures to create programs in which beneficiaries who are elderly or have disabilities can receive home- or community-based care instead of nursing home care. Finally, he said the law allows him to test "health opportunity accounts" -- similar to health savings accounts -- in 10 states to try to make beneficiaries more cost conscious.
Leavitt noted that he also retains "waiver authority" to allow states to test new types of coverage programs. He said, "People need to know what stuff costs. They need to have a reason to care about that."
Leavitt said concerns about Medicaid costs have pushed other public health issues -- such as the need to prepare for a possible flu pandemic -- from the public consciousness (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 4/7).