Washington Post Questions Bush Administration’s Medicaid Reform Plan
The Bush administration's proposed Medicaid reforms "can be judged only according to whether they would bring more and better health coverage to the poorest members of society, and it is far from clear that these would," a Washington Post editorial states (Washington Post, 2/7). Under the Medicaid reform proposal, and states would be required to maintain comprehensive Medicaid coverage for the roughly two-thirds of beneficiaries whose income levels are low enough that the federal government mandates that they be covered, states would have greater flexibility to change Medicaid rules and regulations, simplify and alter eligibility requirements and tailor or cut benefits for beneficiaries they opt to cover. The proposal would give states a fixed amount of money, rather than matching funds, for the beneficiaries that they choose to cover. States that decide to join the new optional Medicaid program would receive a total of $3.25 billion in additional federal subsidies in 2004 to fund new programs and $12.7 billion over seven years, but federal funding would decrease for the three years after that, resulting in a net of no cost to the federal government (California Healthline, 2/4). The Post says that while the Medicaid reform proposal would allow states more flexibility to alter their programs, it also would "enable them to cut many recipients off the rolls, which could produce great hardship." Further, as many states face "budget crises, it is hard to imagine that many governors would leap at the opportunity to expand their already expanded Medicaid services," the Post adds. The editorial concludes, "In the long term, tinkering with Medicaid's internal financial structure would not limit the program's seemingly unstoppable growth. Only deeper, more fundamental changes in the expensive ways health care is delivered in America can achieve that" (Washington Post, 2/7).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.