Governors opt out of Medicaid commission

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The nation's governors will not participate in a commission established to prune and improve the Medicaid program. Officially, the National Governors Association said the panel would be duplicating much of the work the governors are completing independently. Unofficially, the move appears to be another blow to a panel that many critics see as overtly partisan.

Governors are joining Congressional Democrats who last week said they would decline participation in the new Medicaid commission because of its bias toward the Bush administration. House and Senate Democratic leaders also are opposed to the commission's task set for this Sept. 1 of recommending ways to trim $10 billion from the federal and state program.

Health and Human Services Department Secretary Michael Leavitt, who is setting up the commission, had listed the governors as possible appointees. But governors believe they have been making so much progress on their recommendations regarding Medicaid reform that joining the commission would essentially duplicate their efforts, according to Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), vice chairman of the NGA.

The commission's initial purpose is to find ways to cut $10 billion from Medicaid over five years. But the panel came under criticism when it was revealed that Leavitt would appoint the commission's 15 voting members. Many senators, including some Republicans, believe a more neutral body, such as the Institute of Medicine, should administer the panel. The commission was created as part of Congress' fiscal 2006 budget resolution.