Healthcare Business News

Medicaid legislation coming, lawmaker says

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: March 3, 2011 - 3:15 pm ET

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee said Thursday there will be forthcoming House bills on the Medicaid program's maintenance-of-effort requirement and block grant funding to states, although he did not offer specific information on what those pieces of legislation will contain.

Also, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, referred to the president's recent invitation to governors on developing a bipartisan proposal on the Medicaid program. “If states are instead forced to impose steep reductions in payments to providers, they will likely drive more doctors and other providers out of the Medicaid program, and, in some cases, out of practice of medicine altogether,” Upton said, adding that the maintenance-of-effort requirements are a “good place to start” if the president is looking for a bipartisan proposal in this area.

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“The governors have requested flexibility in the way they serve Medicaid patients,” Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), the Health Subcommittee's chairman, told reporters. “They maintain—the 33 governors who wrote us the letter—they can provide the service better and cheaper, so we're looking to give them that flexibility and change this maintenance-of-effort provision. I won't be specific on the block grants, but we're having discussions with governors,” Pitts added.

Pitts' comments followed a Health Subcommittee hearing in which HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spent nearly three hours answering questions about the Obama administration's fiscal 2012 budget and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. She last appeared before that subcommittee in February 2010, before the health reform bill passed. Pitts said after the hearing that he was surprised to learn that Republican members of this subcommittee in the last Congress had made 19 requests for Sebelius to testify, but that she had not been invited on those occasions.

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