Medicaid Commission

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced on Friday the members of the Medicaid advisory commission charged with identifying reforms necessary to stabilize and strengthen Medicaid. I am honored to have been among those selected to serve with so many distinguished health policy experts.

“In Washington and state capitols across America, there is consensus that now is the time to reform and modernize Medicaid,” Secretary Leavitt said. “I look forward to having a robust conversation in an open and bipartisan manner with the commission members. Together with Congress and the states, we will create a plan that will better help Medicaid fulfill its commitment to quality care in a way that is financially sustainable.”

Former Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist will chair the commission, bringing a wealth of experience from running his state’s TennCare program, and former Maine Governor Angus King will serve as vice-chair.

I am delighted that Bob Helms of the American Enterprise Institute also has agreed to serve on the commission, bringing his expertise from his service at HHS during the Reagan years to the deliberations. To read the full HHS release listing all of the commission members, click here.

I hope to bring to the commission’s deliberations two things for which the Galen Institute is noted: Consensus building and fresh ideas based upon market-based solutions.

Medicaid has been the neglected stepchild of the public policy debate, even as it has grown to become the nation’s largest health insurance program, spending more than $300 billion last year and covering 15% of U.S. population. Medicaid is consuming a larger and larger share of state budgets, with the nation’s governors very worried that it is beginning to crowd out other essential state services.

At the same time, the program is not serving the people it was designed to help. Too many Medicaid recipients cannot find a private physician who is willing and able to see them for Medicaid’s low reimbursement rates, forcing recipients to use expensive hospital emergency rooms for primary care.

Clearly, inaction is not an option. The Medicaid commission can build a new consensus, working with others who have a strong interest in modernizing this program. In addition, the same consumer focus and market competition that is beginning to take hold in other parts of the health sector can pave the way for reforms of the Medicaid program that will make it sustainable over the long term to better serve those who most depend upon it.

There will be 13 voting members, including health policy leaders from both sides of the aisle. The commission will submit its first report to Secretary Leavitt Sept. 1, outlining recommendations to slow Medicaid spending by $10 billion over five years. Its second report, due December 31, 2006, will focus on long-term reforms.

The New York Times also wrote about the Commission on Saturday. Here’s a link to their article, with a quote from me indicating that I believe we have a lot of work to do!

Grace-Marie Turner

Health Policy Matters is a weekly newsletter containing summaries of timely and informative studies and articles on free-market health reform. It features research and writings by participants in the Health Policy Consensus Group, articles of interest from the health policy world, and announcements of coming events. Health Policy Matters is published by the Galen Institute, a not-for-profit public policy organization specializing in information and education on health policy. For more information about the newsletter and our organization, please visit our website at http://www.galen.org/.

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