House Republicans say no to big Medicaid cuts

Sunday, May 1, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives in April bucked the wishes of Republican leadership by supporting a motion to table the $20 billion in Medicaid cuts that had been agreed upon in the original budget proposal.

The House voted 348-72-14 in favor of the motion, introduced by Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., the ranking Democrat on the House budget committee, which in effect squashed the previously proposed cuts and made way for a bipartisan commission to study the program.

"The streak of independence that has manifested itself is surprising," said Ann Howard, AAHomecare's director of federal policy. "We know that the governors are talking to their members of Congress and what you are seeing is Congress responding to their governors in a forceful way and being willing to tell their leaders that they need to take a more reasoned and studied approach to these cuts,"

A deal between the White House and Congressional leadership, however, would still result in $10 billion in cuts to Medicaid as part of a final House-Senate budget agreement. The Medicaid Commission will be expected to report back in mid August on how Congress should make the $10 billion in cuts.

The Commission would be expected to make recommendations next year for more fundamental changes to the program. Howard says this is welcome chance for homecare to really shine.

"This commission provides and opportunity," she said. "The hatchet is not going to come down in the way that people thought it might. There is going to be a reasoned approach and homecare will have the opportunity to show how it can be a part of the solution."

The House in March originally adopted a budget framework that included cutting $20 billion from the program. The Senate, however, voted 52 to 48 in favor of the creating of a bipartisan Medicaid commission in lieu of $14 billion in cuts.