End­ing Med­i­caid’s Washington tour

Con­ser­va­tives of­fer flex­i­bil­ity to states on so­cial in­sur­ance pro­gram

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

All four Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates want to save money by block-grant­ing Med­i­caid fund­ing back to the states. The House-passed bud­get in­cluded this nec­es­sary en­ti­tle­ment re­form as a step on the way to tack­ling the na­tion’s debt cri­sis. Un­til now, how­ever, there was no leg­isla­tive ve­hi­cle to make it hap­pen. So a con­ser­va­tive coali­tion of House Repub­li­cans filled the gap with a bill that would give states flex­i­bil­ity to run their own health care pro­grams for the poor.

Mem­bers of the Re­pub­li­can Study Com­mit­tee in­tro­duced a mea­sure Wed­nes­day that com­bines the fund­ing for Med­i­caid and the State Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram into a sin­gle block grant start­ing in fis­cal 2013. The cur­rent, bro­ken sys­tem en­cour­ages states to spend more in or­der to get the match­ing funds from Washington, which range from 50 per­cent to 74 per­cent. The com­bined an­nual spend­ing is more than $400 bil­lion a year.

“We did bold things last year, but we didn’t fol­low up on them,” the bill’s lead spon­sor, Rep. Todd Rokita, told The Washington Times in an in­ter­view. “So this is a com­mit­ment to fol­low through.” The Re­pub­li­can fresh­man came to Washington from In­di­ana to tackle the $15.5 tril­lion debt. So­cial en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams are the largest source of red ink, ac­count­ing for 64 per­cent of spend­ing.

Con­ser­va­tives want to con­serve fed­eral dol­lars by set­ting fund­ing for health pro­grams at cur­rent lev­els for the next 10 years, sav­ing the United States from bor­row­ing and spend­ing $1.8 tril­lion. The con­cept is mod­eled af­ter the suc­cess­ful wel­fare re­form of the mid-1990s, which kept fund­ing flat to en­cour­age states to re­form and in­no­vate. Mr. Rokita, the for­mer Hoosier State sec­re­tary of state, said, “No in­fla­tor will surely be a bone of con­tention. But as a state of­fi­cial, I didn’t have an in­crease in my bud­get, and that forced us to be creative and lever­age tech­nol­ogy to use tax­payer prop­erty most ef­fi­ciently.”

At the state level, Med­i­caid is the big­gest ex­pen­di­ture, grow­ing at a faster pace than even Medi­care. Mak­ing mat­ters worse, Oba­macare man­dates will in­crease the Med­i­caid rolls by an es­ti­mated 17 mil­lion to 25 mil­lion peo­ple. In or­der to give states flex­i­bil­ity to deal with this, the House rank-and-file GOP would elim­i­nate the one-size-fits-all man­dates for the fed­eral funds. This also would pro­vide bet­ter care. “We can im­prove health care if states can de­cide how to al­lo­cate med­i­cal re­sources. We’re los­ing health care providers be­cause of the fo­cus on how much to spend per ser­vice,” fresh­man Rep. Tim Huel­skamp, Kansas Re­pub­li­can and a co-spon­sor, said in an in­ter­view with The Washington Times. “Peo­ple in Kansas know bet­ter what Kansans need than a bunch of bu­reau­crats at [the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices] in Bal­ti­more.” This bill would let states de­cide how the money is spent to pro­vide health care, in­clud­ing provider re­im­burse­ment, ben­e­fits and el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Democrats will be quick to dem­a­gogue this com­mon-sense idea by say­ing Repub­li­cans are try­ing to kill health care pro­grams for the poor. Lib­er­als freak out ev­ery time money is taken out of Un­cle Sam’s hands and re­turned to the tax­pay­ers. Al­ready, 29 Re­pub­li­can gov­er­nors have asked for these Med­i­caid re­forms. With this much de­mand by the states, House Re­pub­li­can lead­ers should ex­pe­dite this leg­is­la­tion to a floor vote. The Amer­i­can peo­ple should know what they can ex­pect if they choose to give the GOP both branches of gov­ern­ment in 2013.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.