Democrats boycott Medicaid commission, alleging partisanship

Share this content:

Democrat congressional leaders have declined to participate in the new Medicaid commission saying that it is too partisan.

The Democrats' role to select four non-voting members to the commission is "wholly inadequate to lend any commission even the air of bipartisanship," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a joint statement last week. They also disagree with the commission's premise of cutting $10 billion by this Sept. 1.

Lawmakers created the commission as part of the fiscal year 2006 budget resolution. Its purpose initially is to cut $10 billion over five years. But the commission drew criticism following the announcement earlier this month that Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt would appoint the commission's 15 voting members. Senators, including some Republicans, believe a more neutral body, such as the Institute of Medicine, should administer the panel.

Besides the voting members, there are expected to be nonvoting members consisting of eight members of Congress and up to 15 health policy experts. Democrats would appoint four of the eight congressional members.

The move by Democrat leaders "should send a clear message that the Medicaid commission is nothing but a farce," Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said. Leavitt plans to personally ask Democrats to participate in the commission, an HHS spokesman said.