Senate, House Could Be Willing To Compromise on Medicaid Cuts
Senate and House members might compromise on the extent of Medicaid cuts, though they are proposing "vastly different" fiscal year 2006 budget resolutions, CongressDaily reports. The Senate budget resolution includes no Medicaid reductions, and the House version includes up to $20 billion in cuts.
Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association, said, "For the Republicans who crossed over, it's whether they are interested in lowering the number or whether they really want zero" cuts. But Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who sponsored the amendment that eliminated Medicaid cuts from the Senate's budget resolution, indicated that he is "willing to be flexible on Medicaid and will not insist" on a compromise budget that includes no cuts to Medicaid, according to CongressDaily.
But House conservatives who oppose smaller Medicaid funding cuts could "complicat[e] the prospects" of a compromise, CongressDaily reports. Jim Horney, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said, "If House conservatives really want to dig in their heels ... that may make it difficult to get a conference agreement." Horney added that Republican leaders are committed to reaching an agreement on a budget resolution, which might be the driving factor of a compromise.
In related news, Scheppach said that governors in discussion with HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt have said they would consider changes to Medicaid that include the elimination of overpayments for prescription drugs, closing a loophole that allows elderly residents to transfer assets to qualify for nursing home care, expanding SCHIP and increasing copayments and deductibles for certain beneficiaries. Details of the potential changes are still being discussed (Heil, CongressDaily, 3/22).