Friday, April 25, 2008

Medicaid Battle: Congress vs. The Veto

A battle over proposed cost saving measure proposed by the Bush administration is brewing in the U.S. House of Representatives. With a veto threat already on the table, things are looking interesting as another face-off between the two branches of government begins.

Jim Abrams gives us the scoop in his article for Time Magazine:

Passage of the legislation in a vote scheduled for later Wednesday would send it to the Senate Finance Committee, where Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is reviewing options for suspending the regulations, his press officer said.

The governors of all 50 states, state Medicaid directors and others oppose the rules, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., told the House. "They know the devastating effects these rules would have on local communities, upon hospitals, and upon vulnerable beneficiaries." Dingell's committee approved the bill earlier this month on a 46-0 vote. [Emphasis added. -GW]

So far during the current administration Congress has only been able to successfully override one veto from the President: a water projects bill last November. While this does not bode well for Congress in the coming conflict, this issue is far from dead in the water. Legislators, state governors, health care providers and more are coming together in favor of the moratorium because they fear the administrations plans will simply cost shift the burden to the poor and the state governments.

Once again, the Executive branch and Legislative branch of our government are locking horns, this time on one of the top issues of the current electoral season.

The White House, in a statement Tuesday warning of a veto threat, said the bill would "thwart these efforts of the federal government to regain fiscal accountability and integrity in Medicaid." Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, in a letter to lawmakers, said it "puts billions of dollars of federal funds at risk, and may turn back progress that has already been made to stop abusive state practices."

But the proposed changes have met opposition from states, health care providers and advocates for poor who say they will shift costs from the federal government to the states and create new hardships for the needy. "Some of these regulations already have become effective and current state estimates of the impact could be as high as four times the administration's $13 billion estimate," National Governors Association chairman Tim Pawlenty, D-Minn., and other governors wrote lawmakers this month. Timely action to impose the one-year moratorium was "critical to avert significant disruptions in coverage for vulnerable populations," they wrote.

So it looks like the fiscal side of American health care rears its head once again. With 48 million people participating in Medicaid over 2007 the impact of this legislation will be felt far and wide. The Time article paints the cost of Medicaid programs at $352 billion, $200 of which was supplied by the federal government, an amount guaranteed to make the public sit up and take notice.

When was the last time you can recall the governors of all 50 states in the U.S. agreeing on something?

SOURCE: "House Challenging Medicaid Rules" 04/23/08
photo courtesy of euthman, used according to its Creative Commons license

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