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Medicaid Cuts Still a Possibility in House-Senate Compromise

  • March 25th, 2005

A House-Senate compromise on cuts in the Medicaid program is a distinct possibility, despite dramatically different approaches in the two houses' budget proposals. The Senate proposal includes no Medicaid reductions and instead sets up a study commission, while the House version includes up to $20 billion in cuts. (See "Senate Rejects Bush's Proposed Medicaid Cuts," March 17, 2005.)

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who co-sponsored the amendment that withdrew Medicaid cuts from the Senate's budget resolution, has indicated that he is "willing to be flexible on Medicaid and will not insist" on a compromise budget that includes no cuts to Medicaid, according to CongressDaily.

Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association (NGA), said, "For the Republicans who crossed over, it's whether they are interested in lowering the number or whether they really want zero" cuts to Medicaid.

The stumbling block could be conservative members of the House who oppose smaller Medicaid funding cuts. Jim Horney, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said, "If House conservatives really want to dig in their heels ... that may make it difficult to get a conference agreement." But Horney added that the Republican leadership is committed to reaching an agreement on a budget resolution.

Meanwhile, the NGA's Scheppach said that governors have been in discussion with Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt and would consider changes to Medicaid that include making it more difficult for the elderly to transfer assets to qualify for nursing home care. Details are still being discussed.

As Republican leaders in Congress move to cut billions from the Medicaid program, "they are simultaneously intervening to save the life of possibly the highest-profile Medicaid patient: Terri Schiavo," observes the Washington Post. Medicaid finances Ms. Schiavo's drug costs and possibly other costs as well through the hospice that provides her care. "At the same time congressional leaders were trying to keep Terri Schiavo alive, they voted to cut the Medicaid program that keeps many millions of people alive," said Ron Pollack, executive director of the health care advocacy group Families USA.

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Last Modified: 03/25/2005

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