White House, providers spar over possible Medicaid cuts

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White House, providers spar over possible Medicaid cuts
White House, providers spar over possible Medicaid cuts
Is sustained Medicaid funding an effective way to ensure the delivery of needed healthcare services to the poor, or a harmful drain on the U.S. Treasury?

While providers would opt for the first choice, the president and most conservatives in Congress side with the latter description. These divergent views help explain why Medicaid funding has become the latest political football on Capitol Hill.

Long-term care providers could lose billions of Medicaid dollars because of cost-cutting changes the Bush administration is actively pursuing. 

Administration officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, see the cuts as a way to restore Medicaid's “fiscal integrity.”

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokesman Jeff Nelligan told reporters that the Medicaid program was “reeling” financially, and that “one of the reasons that it's reeling is that states have operated a kind of shell game with Medicaid funding.” One such tactic is the use of so-called provider taxes as a way to drive up matching federal payments.

A year-old moratorium on the cuts was set to expire May 25. And even if the Senate joins the House in approving a veto-proof moratorium, President Bush said he would reject the measure.

In May, the Senate was developing its version of a war-funding bill that included a moratorium on seven Medicaid provisions. The House of Representatives had earlier approved a similar measure. 

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