House committee passes bill that allows Medicaid beneficiary cuts

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The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on Thursday voted along party lines on legislation that would let states cut individuals from Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program. The provision is known as the State Flexibility Act.

The legislation would repeal “maintenance-of-effort” provisions written into the Affordable Care Act. These provisions are intended to keep states from lowering Medicaid eligibility prior to 2014, which is when Medicaid is set to undergo an expansion under the ACA. Congressional Republicans, who voted to approve the legislation a week after its introduction, said they were voting in response to state governors who have asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to lift Medicaid eligibility requirements.

Democrats on the panels offered three amendments, all of which retained the maintenance-of-effort requirements for children under 19 years old, seniors, and individuals who are eligible for nursing homes or home- and community-based services. All of these proposals were ultimately voted down, according to the Bureau of National Affairs.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis of this bill estimated that states could cut up to 1.7 million children who receive benefits via the Children's Health Insurance Program in 2016. Similarly, MOE opponents say that dual eligibles — those who receive Medicaid and Medicare benefits — could be targeted by this legislation, according to The Hill. Many dual eligibles reside in nursing homes.

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