New commission would investigate ways to improve Medicaid continuity

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A Congressional commission would study ways to protect the future and efficiency of Medicaid under a new bill unveiled Wednesday in Washington. Sens. Gordon Smith (R-OR), the chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) are the bill's co-sponsors.

A wide range of healthcare providers and other groups praise the proposal. It was introduced just two days after President Bush released his fiscal year 2006 budget, which calls for a $60 billion reduction in Medicaid funding over a 10-year period.

Nursing home operators have criticized the budget proposal, saying it would undercut recent gains made in quality improvement efforts, among other negative effects.

"We need a long-term strategy instead of dealing with Medicaid year to year as a budget issue," said Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), who plans to co-sponsor a companion bill in the House.

The proposed bipartisan commission would be a 23-member panel that would include healthcare providers, Congressional leaders, state and local elected officials, and consumer advocates.