Congress may suspend Medicaid cuts due to hurricane

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Congress could delay plans to cut $10 billion from Medicaid due to Hurricane Katrina, the Senate Majority Leader said this week.

The need to provide coverage to those who lost their healthcare in the storm might outweigh the government's desire to cut Medicaid spending, suggested Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN). Still, the government should consider changes to Medicaid that would eliminate waste, fraud and abuse, he added.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid plans to work with states so that the nearly 1 million people displaced because of the hurricane can still receive Medicaid benefits. CMS is sending states a template that evacuees can use to apply for emergency Medicaid waivers, retroactive to one week before the hurricane.

Also, states will be given the flexibility to lower co-payments and beneficiary contributions, federal officials said. And CMS officials are working with states to establish a new category of Medicaid and SCHIP eligibility for evacuees who cannot prove either current eligibility or their eligibility in their home state.