Senate Panel Discussions on Medicare, Medicaid Spending Reductions Continue as Deadline Nears
Senate Finance Committee members met on Monday to negotiate a plan that would cut Medicaid and Medicare spending as part of the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation process, but committee Chair Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) latest package did not achieve a consensus among conservative and moderate Republicans, CongressDaily reports. The proposal, which aides described as "very fluid," could include about $12 billion in cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, in addition to a Medicaid expansion for Hurricane Katrina survivors, CongressDaily reports. "The moderates are pretty well satisfied, but when you satisfy them, you run into problems with someone else," Grassley said to reporters (Heil, CongressDaily, 10/18).
Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), a conservative on the committee, said, "I think, frankly, that there's too many changes," adding, "It's just gotten so complex that different people have different things they want to put on." Thomas said he opposes the hurricane relief measure, which would cost an estimated $6.1 billion. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) said a "contentious item" was the removal from the package of a proposal that would have prevented states from using Medicaid money for other state programs. "We had it in there, and all of a sudden it disappeared," Bunning said. Grassley said that issue could be handled through the federal waiver process (Wayne, CQ Today, 10/17).
Grassley has scheduled another meeting for Tuesday, and he likely will schedule a markup for Thursday if an agreement is reached. Congressional rules require 48 hours notice before a markup. Budget leaders previously asked committees to send their reconciliation packages to the Senate Budget Committee by Wednesday, and if the finance committee cannot submit a package in time, the budget committee potentially could create its own package.
The budget committee is expected to mark up a bill compiling all the committees' reconciliation packages by Oct. 26, CongressDaily reports. Finance committee ranking member Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, "It could be a parliamentary mess." Budget committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said he has no intention of "usurp[ing]" Grassley's reconciliation package (CongressDaily, 10/18).
Proposed Medicaid spending reductions could affect 800,000 children in foster care programs, who frequently have greater needs for medical, developmental and mental health care than other children, according to a report released Monday by Casey Family Programs, a child-advocacy group. Any reductions in funding for Medicaid screening and treatment programs could affect foster children, the report says. In addition, higher copayments or deductibles could reduce the medical care that foster children receive because foster parents might not be able to afford the added costs, according to the report (CQ HealthBeat, 10/17).
CFP President Ruth Massinga said, "These are some of our most fragile children and youth, and yet Congress is proposing we sacrifice the long-term quality of their lives for the sake of short-term budget savings" (Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, 10/18). The report is available online.