Government establishes charter for Medicaid commission

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Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, signed a charter this week establishing a Medicaid commission that will make long-term recommendations on the future of the Medicaid program by Dec. 31, 2006.

Its task by this Sept. 1 is to recommend ways for the program to save $10 billion. Congress last month approved a budget resolution that calls for $10 billion in cuts to the federal-state program over five years and a commission to study the program.

The commission will address 10 questions, according to the charter. A couple: "What are alternatives to Medicaid for the delivery of long-term care?" and "Should eligibility, benefits and financing structures for three broad categories of beneficiaries – including mothers and children, individuals with disability and the elderly – be modified?"

The commission will have up to 15 voting members and 18 nonvoting members. Leavitt will appoint all voting members. This, despite recent grumbling by Democrats that a more neutral party should make commission appointments.

Voting members will include Leavitt or his designee; federal officials who run programs for the Medicaid population; former or current governors; and three healthcare experts from public policy organizations. Nonvoting members will include four Republicans and four Democrats from Congress appointed by Congressional leaders. Ten people involved in the Medicaid program will also offer advice.