State Legislators Set To Vote on Medicaid Reform Proposals
The National Conference of State Legislatures on Friday is expected to vote on a series of proposals on how to alter Medicaid, the Seattle Times reports. The proposals, which have been discussed this week during NCSL's annual convention in Seattle, include:
- Allowing states to offer scaled-down benefit packages for some beneficiaries;
- Giving states full authority to impose deductibles, premiums and copayments for beneficiaries who have higher incomes;
- Providing tax incentives to businesses and individuals for purchasing long-term care insurance;
- Allowing states to fund Medicaid long-term care services by using federal payments similar to block grants (Thomas, Seattle Times, 8/18); and
- Allowing states to design "more straightforward" eligibility tests, in order to cut back on administrative services, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.
Joy Johnson Wilson, health policy director for NCSL, said, "Everybody believes that the program can't sustain itself over time," adding, "We can either come up with a plan or we can wait for crash and burn" (Woodward, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/18).
NCSL President John Hurson, a Democratic member of the Maryland House, said, "Medicaid is bankrupting state and federal governments. The difference is the federal government can print more money, the states can't."
Critics of the proposals, however, have said that pushing more costs onto beneficiaries could lead more people to become uninsured.
A NCSL report released on Wednesday suggests that "state budgets are in better shape than they've been in years," the Times reports. State revenues for 2005 are up 6.8% over last year. Further, state budgets collectively have about a 7% reserve -- twice what was predicted earlier. Hurson said, "We may have our budgets balanced, but there are outstanding costs that are rising and are going to swamp the revenue surpluses in a very short period of time" (Seattle Times, 8/18).
Wyoming state Sen. Charlie Scott (R), a member of NCSL's health committee, said many states' Medicaid costs have grown 8% to 10% annually (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/18).