Medicaid funds cut, but new panel added
House and Senate negotiators agreed during recent budget talks to cut Medicaid funding by $10 billion over a five-year period.But they also agreed, with the White House's blessing, to create a panel that will examine better ways to administer Medicaid payments, make the proposed cuts and suggest other changes.
Nursing home advocates, who have two-thirds of their residents' coverage paid by Medicaid, see the final compromise as a victory.
Reimbursement cuts would begin with fiscal year 2007, which gives time to figure out a way around them, or to change them, provider advocates say.
The House had called for cuts twice as deep, while the Senate called for no cut and also had proposed the Medicaid panel. The House voted 214-211 for the resolution, and the Senate approved it 52-47.
The Medicaid provisions had been seen as the most sensitive part of budget negotiations, according to some observers.
The budget is "a proposal that puts us on the path toward stabilizing and strengthening Medicaid," said Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He has the authority to name the 33 members of the new Medicaid panel (15 will have voting powers), despite protests from Democrats fearing partisan politics.
Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) countered that the budget was an example of Republicans' "misplaced priorities."