Thursday, October 27, 2005

House Committee Passes Cut in Medicaid Program; Deal Amendment Ensures that States Must Offer Health Center Services

To: National Desk, Health Care Reporter

Contact: Amy Simmons of the National Association of Community Health Centers, Inc., 202-296-1890; Web: http://releases.usnewswire.com/redir.asp?ReleaseID=55763&Link=http://www.nachc.com

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The House Energy & Commerce Committee today passed its Medicaid reform package meeting its target of cutting $15 billion over 5 years from the program. The Committee bill would dramatically change the way states are allowed to shape their Medicaid programs, including new cost-sharing requirements for many low-income individuals. On a positive note, the Committee did approve an amendment offered by Health Subcommittee Chairman Nathan Deal (R-GA), and supported by a bipartisan majority of Committee members, ensuring that the new coverage options given to states include the services of Federally-qualified health centers.

NACHC Vice President for Federal, State, and Public Affairs Dan Hawkins noted that, "The Deal Amendment is crucial to the viability of health centers all across America and their ability to continue caring for millions of Medicaid beneficiaries as well as millions of uninsured health center patients. We are extremely grateful to Rep. Deal and to so many other Committee Members who supported this amendment." NACHC worked with Reps. Chip Pickering (R-MS), Ed Towns (D-NY), Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Fred Upton (R-MI), John Shimkus (R-IL), Vito Fosella (R-NY), Charlie Bass (R-NH), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Tim Murphy (R-PA), Heather Wilson (R-NM), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Gene Green (D-TX), and Jay Inslee (D-WA) on the health center language.

Hawkins went on to say, "Rep. Deal's amendment will lessen significantly the potential damage that could result from the Committee's Medicaid reform bill. However, even with the amendment, we continue to have significant concerns with a number of the bill's provisions, including the broad benefit flexibility provision and substantial changes in Medicaid cost-sharing rules. These provisions are designed to save costs, but they would do precisely the opposite. Why? Because low-income Americans will have less access to the vital preventive and primary health care services they need, boosting the chances that they will wait to seek care until they are sicker and require more costly care. And when Medicaid patients seek costlier health care, everyone pays. If that happens, it could undermine another positive provision in the bill, whose aim is to work with health centers and other providers to help reduce the inappropriate use of high-cost hospital emergency rooms for basic medical care."

The Senate Finance Committee is also considering Medicaid reform legislation that does not currently include provisions increasing state flexibility or cost-sharing such as those found in the House Committee's bill.

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