Leavitt to appoint Medicaid commission members, dismaying some Democrats

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Some Democrats were irked last week following the disclosure that Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, would appoint members of a new Medicaid commission.

The commission, which was a part of Congress' proposed budget package last month, will recommend ways to cut $10 billion from Medicaid over five years. It will also propose other solutions to Medicaid's rising costs. Congress approved a $10 billion Medicaid reduction over five years.

Some members of Congress were dismayed by the news that Leavitt would appoint the commission because they were hoping for an independent panel of commissioners. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), who spearheaded the effort for a Medicaid commission, said the Institute of Medicine should conduct the commission for the purpose of credibility.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the Senate Finance Committee's ranking Democrat, opposes the Leavitt-appointed commission. But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said the commission would be "a fair and balanced" group of federal and state officials.