Republican senator takes stand against Medicaid commission

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A prominent Republican senator may not nominate members to the new Medicaid commission, adding fuel to the controversy surrounding the panel's credibility.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) has yet to nominate a member. He initially opposed the amendment that led to the panel, according to Washington's The Hill newspaper. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt angered many members of Congress when he announced he would appoint 15 voting members and Congressional members would be nonvoters. The panel was established to propose ways to cut $10 billion from Medicaid's 2006 fiscal year budget in five years.

Further undermining the panel's legitimacy, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) last week in a letter to HHS's Leavitt wrote that members of Congress should have voting positions. Also, Leavitt could be in an awkward position if he sits on the panel and also represents the administration, The Hill reported.

In related news, the National Governors Association, which said it would opt out of participation in the commission, on June 15 plans to present lawmakers with plans for Medicaid reform. The NGA's plans will address prescription drug purchasing, cost-sharing strategies, benefit reductions, and asset transfers, among other proposals.