Senate, House at odds over big Medicaid cuts

Sunday, March 20, 2005

March 21, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted 52 to 48 March 17 in favor of a budget amendment that would take $14 billion in proposed 2006 Medicaid cuts off the table.  The House, on the other hand, narrowly adopted a budget framework that includes even deeper Medicaid cuts - $20 billion - than were contemplated in the original Senate proposal.
In crafting a final budget for 2007, both sides will have to compromise and that means Medicaid’s funds could still be slashed.
Medicaid’s costs have grown substantially in recent years. According to those backing cuts, the culprits are state governments that have expanded the program beyond its original bounds. Opponents of cuts blame rising health care costs and argue funding reductions would penalize the poor.
In place of the Senate’s Medicaid cuts, Sen. Gordon Smith’s (R-Ore.) amendment establishes a commission to work with the Bush administration and the nation’s governors to explore policy changes to slow the program's growth. The 23-member, bipartisan commission would be charged with reviewing the long-term goals, populations served, financial sustainability, interaction with Medicare and safety-net providers, and quality of care provided in the Medicaid program. It would make recommendations after one year, in 2007
Many states face a Medicaid funding squeeze and homecare organizations have repeatedly made the case for making dollars go farther by devoting more Medicaid resources to homecare, which is patient-preferred and cost-effective.