Smith decides not to join Medicaid commission

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The main champion of a Medicaid commission reportedly has turned down a request to participate in the commission, further undermining the newly chartered body.

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) sponsored an amendment in the Senate in March calling for a commission to find ways to improve the Medicaid program. He declined an invitation by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to serve as a nonvoting member of the commission, according to The Hill newspaper this week. The commission was created as part of the FY 2006 budget resolution.

Smith's stand against the commission follows the rejection by the Democrats and the National Governors Association. The tide turned against the commission last month after Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said he would appoint the 15 voting members and eight members of Congress will have nonvoting advisory positions. The Democrats decided not to be a part of it soon after that announcement.

Smith's spokesman said the senator believes he will be more useful in the reform process on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, and as chair on the Special Committee on Aging.