Los Angeles Times Examines Role of Medicaid Letter in Budget Negotiations
The Los Angeles Times on Saturday examined how a letter signed by 44 Republican members of Congress urging House Budget Committee Chair Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) to avoid cuts in Medicaid funding could hamper conference committee negotiations on the fiscal year 2006 budget (Havemann, Los Angeles Times, 4/16).
The House FY 2006 budget resolution instructs the House Energy and Commerce Committee to find $20 billion in savings over five years, most of which is expected to come from Medicaid. The Senate budget resolution includes no Medicaid cuts (California Healthline, 4/14).
Formal negotiations on a compromise have not yet begun, but Senate and House budget committee chairs have met to try to reach a deal. According to congressional "insiders," the letter makes the task of reaching a compromise "more difficult," the Times reports.
Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), author of the letter, said, "I hope this [letter] will give Chair Nussle some room to give. It creates an opportunity to find some common ground." She added that a bipartisan commission could determine ways to make Medicaid more efficient. An unnamed Senate staff member familiar with the budget situation said Wilson's letter "is not helpful for the negotiations at this time" because many senators believe some Medicaid cuts are necessary (Los Angeles Times, 4/16).
The following summarizes coverage on the transfer of assets to achieve Medicaid eligibility.
- Newhouse/Baltimore Sun: HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt is attempting to tighten Medicaid eligibility rules to save $4.5 billion over the next 10 years, with one idea to delay benefits for up to five years for applicants who transfer their assets, Newhouse/Sun reports. However, Leavitt said that lawmakers seeking to change Medicaid eligibility "must first overcome an attitude among many Americans that they are entitled to pass some of their savings to their children," according to the Newhouse/Sun. Marilee Driscoll, a long-term care expert, said, "There is a feeling that if you worked hard your whole life and paid your taxes, you are entitled" to government-funded long-term care. She added, "What we have seen in a number of states is when you try to close the loopholes, you are made to look like you are hurting old people" (Walsh, Newhouse/Baltimore Sun, 4/17).
- Chicago Tribune: The Tribune on Sunday examined consumer advocates' opposition to eligibility changes and their contention that Medicaid is a "crucial safety net" for seniors. According to the Tribune, some consumer advocates believe that "weakening protections would be a severe blow to families already strained by rising medical costs and reduced retirement benefits" (Graham, Chicago Tribune, 4/17).