Sen. Gordon Smith Says Amendment To Prevent Reductions in Federal Medicaid Funds Has Votes To Pass
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) on Tuesday said that a majority of senators support an amendment he is co-sponsoring that would avert $14 billion in proposed Medicaid cuts from the Senate's fiscal year 2006 budget resolution and create a commission to study Medicaid, the Washington Post reports (Weisman, Washington Post, 3/16).
The amendment would remove from the budget resolution an instruction for the Senate Finance Committee to find $15 billion in mandatory savings over five years, $14 billion of which are expected to come from Medicaid (California Healthline, 3/15).
Smith said at least six Republicans support the amendment. A vote is expected as early as Wednesday. According to the Post, the budget resolution's current language prevents lawmakers from filibustering legislation to implement entitlement cuts, allowing it to be approved by a simple 51-vote majority (Washington Post, 3/16).
Smith said, "I'm afraid of the consequences for the disabled if we do Medicaid reform in a hurry," adding, "I'm specifically ... concerned about how Medicaid cuts are first made against mental health coverage" (Schuler, CQ Today, 3/15).
If the Senate approved the Medicaid amendment, reaching a Senate-House budget agreement would be difficult, House Budget Committee Chair Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) said on Tuesday (DeBose/Dinan, Washington Times, 3/16).
The House Budget Committee on March 9 proposed a FY 2006 budget resolution that would require the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, to find $20 billion in savings over five years (California Healthline, 3/10).
Nussle said, "I hate to be a naysayer about this at all, but I'm not sure how we get a conference with the Senate, with the product where they're at." Nussle added, "We're not going to budge when it comes to controlling spending" (Washington Times, 3/16).
According to CQ HealthBeat, Republican leaders and the White House are lobbying to prevent Smith's amendment from passing (CQ HealthBeat , 3/15).
AARP, the American Health Care Association and other health care groups have endorsed Smith's amendment.
AARP Associate Executive Director Chris Hansen said, "Sound policy -- not arbitrary budget targets -- should be the driving force for strengthening and improving the Medicaid program."
AHCA President and CEO Hal Daub said in a release, "States have a legitimate complaint with federal cost-shifting, and airing and debating some of those grievances have the potential to help us establish better policy for our seniors requiring long-term care services" (CQ HealthBeat , 3/15).