Many Senate Democrats Resist Making Changes to Medicaid Program
Senate Democrats sent several letters to the White House on Thursday, urging President Obama to oppose drastic changes to Medicaid as part of budget negotiations, Politico reports.
A letter sent by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and 36 other senators criticized a Republican proposal that would turn Medicaid into a block-grant system and cut more than $750 billion from the program over the next decade (Millman/Haberkorn, Politico, 6/9).
It also said Senate Democrats have enough votes to avoid a Republican filibuster (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/9).
Details of GOP Medicaid Proposal, Letters
According to the proposal -- included in the House-approved fiscal year 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34) -- states would receive fixed annual block grants of $11,000 per Medicaid beneficiary to use as they choose. The proposal is part of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) broader budget blueprint (California Healthline, 5/25).
Republican lawmakers and governors say the block-grant proposal would help rein in federal spending and give state officials more flexibility to administer Medicaid. However, Democrats argue it would negatively affect care for seniors, disabled residents and low-income individuals, as well as shift costs to local communities.
The Rockefeller letter said, "Medicare and Social Security have been declared off the table in deficit negotiations, but Medicaid suddenly looks like the sacrificial lamb" (Ethridge, CQ Today, 6/9).
Partisan disagreement over spending cuts for the fiscal year 2012 budget and a debt-limit increase have hindered budget talks in recent weeks (California Healthline, 6/7).
Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) sent similar letters. Feinstein indicated in the letter that she would be open to other changes to the program.
Key Dems Absent From Letters
However, several Democratic leaders -- including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) -- did not participate in the letters.According to CQ Today, those Democrats might be willing to accept some changes to Medicaid to move budget negotiations along (CQ Today, 6/9). 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.