Senators call for Institute of Medicine to name Medicaid commission

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Senators of both parties are pushing Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to hand over the task of appointing Medicaid commission members to the Institute of Medicine. The move would make the commission less biased, they believe.

"In order for the commission to be credible, it's got to be independent and bipartisan," said a spokesperson for Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), who led the effort to create the panel. The spokesperson added that Smith and Leavitt could take about the effort as early as this week.

A commission appointed by Leavitt would slant too much towards President Bush's views, some senators believe. "There's no secret as to how the Bush administration wants to proceed on Medicaid," said a spokesperson for Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), a co-sponsor of the Smith amendment in the Senate that called for a commission in lieu of Medicaid cuts.

Congress last month passed a budget resolution with $10 billion in cuts and a commission to study Medicaid. A commission could issue a preliminary report to Congress by Sept. 1, according to the news service CongressDaily.