Senate Vote on Medicaid Amendment Expected To Be Close
A vote Thursday on an amendment by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) that would remove $14 billion in proposed Medicaid cuts from the Senate's fiscal year 2006 budget resolution and create a commission to study Medicaid is "expected to be close," the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Fram, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/17). "I think I have the votes. ... We'll see how we do tomorrow," Smith said Wednesday (Cohn/Heil, CongressDaily, 3/17).
The amendment will pass if it receives approval from all 45 Democratic senators; Smith; Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), Mike DeWine (Ohio), Norm Coleman (Minn.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine), who are thought to "solid[ly]" support the amendment; and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who reportedly is "leaning toward supporting" the amendment, according to CQ Today (Taylor/Allen, CQ Today, 3/16).
Collins on Wednesday night met with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who, according to aides, was "trying to see if there's a way to address her concerns" and convince her to oppose the amendment. Before the meeting with Frist, Collins said, "I'm going in there to get hammered" (CongressDaily, 3/17).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, appearing at a Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee hearing, defended President Bush's proposals for Medicaid (CQ HealthBeat, 3/16). In his FY 2006 budget plan, Bush proposed revisions to Medicaid that he estimated would save $60 billion over 10 years and $14 billion over five years. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that Bush's plan would reduce Medicaid spending by $9 billion over five years (California Healthline, 3/10).
Leavitt said Bush's plan would increase Medicaid spending by $900 billion over 10 years. He added that the administration is seeking to slow the program's spending growth rate by two-tenths of a percentage point over 10 years, CQ HealthBeat reports. According to CQ HealthBeat, the plan "refers to the effect of trimming $60 billion from outlays over 10 years but doesn't include the impact of giving states greater flexibility over benefits."
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) expressed concern that the budget plan would only decrease Medicaid spending by a small percentage at a time when the program's spending growth rate could increase "exponentially."
But Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) questioned the Bush proposal to allow states more flexibility in determining some benefits, saying, "Flexibility means less money. I know that" (CQ HealthBeat, 3/16).