Senate Amendment Could Restore $14 Billion in Medicaid Funding
A Senate amendment that would remove $14 billion in proposed Medicaid cuts from the table and create a commission to study Medicaid "appeared Monday to be gaining support," CQ Today reports. The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), would stop an instruction in the Senate's fiscal year 2006 budget resolution 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 (CQ Today, 3/14).
The Senate budget debate began on Monday and is expected to continue for most of this week, with votes on Medicaid "expected by close of business Wednesday," CongressDaily reports (Cohn, CongressDaily, 3/14). The House could start debate on its FY 2006 budget resolution as early as Wednesday, according to CQ HealthBeat (CQ HealthBeat, 3/14).
Smith, Bingaman and 12 co-sponsors have introduced a bill that would create a commission of experts to evaluate Medicaid and recommend improvements before lawmakers cut funding or make changes to the program. The commission would be made of experts to be appointed by the president, Congress, governors, and state and local officials. Commission members would hold public meetings and deliver recommendations on how to improve Medicaid (American Health Line, 2/10).
Sens. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) have expressed support for the amendment, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she would give the amendment, which has yet to be offered in final form, a "close and critical" look (CQ Today, 3/14). Support for the amendment from "GOP moderates could tilt the balance in favor of minority Democrats," who are expected to support the proposal, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt is "making calls to line up opposition to Smith's proposal," according to a GOP senate aide, the AP/Chronicle reports.
"We're not saying no [to Medicaid cuts], but we are saying let's be careful," Smith said in an interview. Smith predicted his amendment would win passage (Fram, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/15).
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Monday expressed her support for the amendment and said the commission would be similar to a bipartisan commission on Social Security in the early 1980s. "I'm focused right now on trying to get everybody to agree that we need to take [Medicaid] out of politics as quickly as possible," Clinton said, adding, "We need to get some people together who will have respect from both sides of the aisle" (Machacek, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 3/15).
However, Senate Budget Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) on Monday said to colleagues that any senator who supports the amendment "doesn't have any interest in our children or our children's children" because without changes to Medicaid, long-term budget deficits could worsen.
Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said in a brief interview that he believed the amendment would fail. He added, however, "I can't tell you what the likelihood of that is" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/14).
NPR's "Talk of the Nation" on Monday included a discussion about state budgets, health care and rising Medicaid costs. Guests on the program included Donna Folkener, program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures; Diane Rowland, executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured; Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D); and Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R) (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 3/14). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.