Smith Declines Offer From Frist To Join Medicaid Study Commission
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who in April spearheaded the effort to assemble a commission to study Medicaid before making any program funding cuts, has declined an invitation from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to participate in the commission, The Hill reports (Young, The Hill, 6/14). As part of the fiscal year 2006 budget resolution approved by Congress in April, lawmakers directed the House and Senate to eliminate $10 billion in Medicaid spending over five years. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt in May established a commission that will make recommendations to HHS on ways to reduce Medicaid spending.
However, Democratic lawmakers on May 26 said that they will not participate in the commission after Leavitt announced that he will appoint the 15 voting members and that eight members of Congress will have nonvoting advisory positions. In addition, the executive committee of the National Governors Association on June 1 said that governors will not participate in the commission (California Healthline, 6/7).
The Hill notes that there are "significant differences between [Smith's] original idea and the as-yet-unnamed Leavitt commission." A spokesperson for Smith said, "Sen. Smith feels that he can be more useful" in the reform process as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has exclusive jurisdiction over Medicaid, and as chair of the Special Committee on Aging. Smith's spokesperson added that the HHS commission will still be part of the process.
According to The Hill, Smith's decision "is the latest to a series of snubs to the commission that could diminish its bearing on the policy debate." House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has not decided whether to appoint a nonvoting member "[b]ecause the Democrats have refused to appoint members," a spokesperson said. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has sought a senator to serve on the commission following his doubts last week over whether to do so himself, according to committee aides. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) also is eligible to appoint a nonvoting member.
In related news, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), chair of NGA, and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), vice chair of NGA, on Wednesday are scheduled to present the governors' recommendations on Medicaid reforms at a Senate Finance Committee hearing. Later in the day, Warner and Huckabee plan to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee (The Hill, 6/14).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.