Sen. Hillary Clinton Criticizes Expected Bush Administration Medicaid Reform Proposal
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Thursday said that the Bush administration likely will offer a Medicaid reform proposal that would "threaten to destroy the health safety net" for the "poorest of the poor" and the "sickest of the sick," CQ Today reports (CQ Today, 1/27). In a speech at a Families USA conference, Clinton said that a proposal under consideration by the administration to cap federal Medicaid expenditures through block grants would place the program on "a glide path to extinction."
In addition, she said that such a proposal would "gut the program, and that is not the solution" (Fireman, Long Island Newsday, 1/28). According to Clinton, "We have an emergency. ... We are about to experience one of the most aggressive assaults on the structure and funding of public health programs in our history" (CQ Today, 1/27).
Clinton also criticized the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, which she said would cause confusion among beneficiaries (Long Island Newsday, 1/28). She added that under the benefit, Medicare could automatically enroll some beneficiaries in prescription drug plans that do not cover the medications they require. In addition, she said the health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers that administer the prescription drug plans could revise their formularies or end participation in Medicare, which would cause problems for beneficiaries (CongressDaily, 1/27).
"I am open to real reforms and improvements," Clinton said, adding, "There are many who still believe that we can cut people loose, make them rugged individualists again. ... Cut off access to benefits no matter whether they have a car accident or discover cancer after their benefits have run out. I don't want to live in a country that has those as its values" (Long Island Newsday, 1/28).
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who also spoke at the conference, said, "We have an administration that has decided that it's going to invest its entire political capital into fixing a Social Security system that's not broke instead of fixing a health care system that everybody knows is broke. It doesn't make any sense."
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said, "We are about to enter the mother of all battles on the future on Medicaid" (CQ Today, 1/27).
In response, White House spokesperson Trent Duffy said that the Bush administration is "fully committed to Medicaid," although in a revised form. "You don't have to look very far to see that Medicaid is getting unaffordable in some states because some governors have expanded it beyond its original purpose," he said (Long Island Newsday, 1/28).