A Bush Administration proposal to hike Medicaid co-payments for adults and introduce co-payments for children has drawn fire from doctors.
The debate came at an Aug. 17 meeting of the Medicaid Reform Commission, a federal advisory panel appointed by the administration to help rein in the growth of Medicaid, which provides health insurance to more than 50 million low-income people.
Under current law, adults pay $3 co-payments. Co-payments are not allowed for children under 18. The administration is proposing $5 co-payments for adults, and $3 co-payments for children.
Under the proposal, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, Medicaid recipients would pay $4 billion in additional charges over the next five years. But according to an Aug. 18 story in the New York Times, Dennis G. Smith, a top federal Medicaid official, reminded his fellow panel members that this was not a large amount in the context of a program expected to cost the federal government and the states $2 trillion in the next five years.
Democrats have been leery of the commission, saying it would simply ratify budget cuts proposed by President Bush. Shortly after it was created, Senate Minority Leader Harry Read (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declined the invitation to appoint four non-voting members to the commission, which it said was stacked with as many as 34 voting and non-voting members appointed by Republicans.
"We fundamentally disagree with the premise that this Commission should make recommendations on how to cut Medicaid outlays by $10 billion by September 1. While we need to reduce the deficit, we should not make cuts affecting the most vulnerable Americans in order to finance more tax cuts for the wealthy," Reid and Pelosi wrote in a May 26 letter to HHS Secretary Michael Levitt.
But the panel made clear yesterday that it would not rubber-stamp the Bush Administration proposal.