MEDICARE COMMISSION: Jindal Appointed Executive Director
Louisiana Health and Hospitals Secretary Bobby Jindal has been appointed executive director of the Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare. Jindal will begin work within a couple of weeks, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports, but is to begin organizing and making staff decisions immediately.
Although most of Jindal's experience has been with Medicaid, he said that Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), chair of the commission, and Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA), administrative chair of the commission, felt that "it wasn't so important that I come in with more knowledge on Medicare, but rather what was important was my practical expertise in attacking a very complex financial problem in public health care" (Shuler/McKinney, 1/29). In making the appointment, Thomas said he chose Jindal because he is "someone who could think outside the box, who could put together a list of changes that are not the ones we've all seen" (CongressDaily, 1/28). In addition, Thomas cited Jindal's experience developing Louisiana's "'zero tolerance' policy on health care fraud and collecting $28 million from doctors, hospitals and other providers who've abused" Medicaid, cutting $1 billion from the state DHH budget and creating department surpluses worth about $200 million, the Advocate reports.
Vision For The Future
Jindal said that the bipartisan commission must: "Reach consensus on a recommended legislative package that addresses 'the short-term financial crisis' of baby boomer retirements; [g]ive Congress 'some of the reasonable paths to take ... some plans to explore' for structural and long-term reforms of Medicare; and [e]ducate Congress and the public about a host of Medicare issues, such as flexibility in health care, access to care and costs of care" (Shuler/McKinney, 1/29).
According to Jindal, the timing of his appointment is ideal because the state Medicaid program is "now on solid financial ground." He said, "We have moved Medicaid from the verge of bankruptcy to stable ground for the first time in many years. In doing so, we lowered spending three years in a row, generated three budget surpluses, explored new ways of delivering health care and set national models in various areas of the Department of Health and Hospitals. It is an exciting time for DHH and for Louisiana" (release, 1/28). Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster (R) appointed DHH undersecretary David Hood as the new agency secretary (Advocate, 1/29).
No Medicare Expansion
Thomas said yesterday it is unlikely that Congress will "act this year on President Clinton's proposal to expand Medicare to those under 65." However, he said the "prospects have nothing to do with the desire of a bipartisan Medicare commission to hold off on changes until they complete their work in 1999." "If they were good ideas and they made sense we would move them very quickly," he said. Although Thomas officially made the appointment of Jindal, he "refused to delineate which duties will fall to him and which to Breaux, saying only that 'we want to build on the bipartisan atmosphere we had in the first session." Thomas will share the leadership of the commission with Breaux, its "statutory chair." Thomas said that he has "laid out an ambitious schedule of oversight hearings on Medicare" (CongressDaily, 1/28).
A hearing on "Preparing the Health Care Financing Administration for the 21st Century" will be held today at 10 a.m. Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, head of HCFA, will testify before the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health. Panel members will include William Scanlon, director of health financing and systems, General Accounting Office; Leslie Aronovitz, GAO associate director of health financing and systems; Stuart Butler, Heritage Foundation vice president for domestic policy; and Paul Ginsburg, chair of the Study Panel on Fee-For-Service Medicare, National Academy of Social Insurance (Ways & Means release, 1/27).