HHS officially remained silent on details of the Medicaid Commission that will address how to cut $10 billion from the program over five years, but that has not stopped interested parties from weighing in on what the commission should do and who should control it.
"We're certainly hoping for provider representation" on the commission, said Tom Nickels, the American Hospital Association's senior vice president of federal relations. "But to this point, we know nothing. It's very much up in the air, from our perspective."
The commission has been a hot topic of debate in Washington (See related editorial, p. 23), with some lawmakers calling for HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to give up control of the commission.
A dozen senators from both parties sent him a letter last week that said putting the Institute of Medicine in charge "is the best way to ensure that the administration and Congress receive credible, long-range recommendations on how to improve coverage and access to care ... for populations served by Medicaid."
Some groups are already taking shots at Leavitt's unannounced efforts.
"The Medicaid Commission created by the Bush administration is likely to be a sham that will only rubber-stamp predetermined conclusions designed to cut back vital health services for America's elderly, children and other vulnerable groups," Families USA said in a news release.
Leavitt did not make a much-rumored announcement about the new Medicaid Commission before he left last week for the 58th World Health Assembly in Geneva.
"We'll make a public announcement when things are in place," HHS spokesman Bill Hall said. "They are not in place at this moment."
Asked whether he'd been contacted by Leavitt's office, the AHA's Nickels replied, "No, but we've certainly contacted them."