HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt named 13 voting members and 15 nonvoting members to a Medicaid review panel that must recommend $10 billion in federal Medicaid cutbacks by Sept. 1.
The one-year commission, mandated by federal budget legislation, has generated controversy, with both the National Governors Association and congressional Democrats refusing to participate. HHS said Leavitt left open two voting spots for current governors. An HHS news release said the commission consisted of health policy leaders from "both sides of the aisle."
At deadline, the NGA had not returned a call seeking comment. The group in early June said it felt the association would be most effective if it worked on Medicaid as an independent bipartisan group. In May, Democratic congressional leaders refused Leavitt's invitation to name four nonvoting members, saying Leavitt's sole power to name the commission compromised its nonpartisan objectivity.
In a joint statement last week, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) remained critical of the panel: "Given the Leavitt Medicaid commission's lack of independence and artificially short deadline, it is difficult to see how this commission would make a significant contribution to the debate on Medicaid. Rather, its role and contribution would likely be to reiterate the administration's current position on Medicaid reform and spending cuts, which we do not believe represents a consensus view."
Former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist, a Republican, will chair the commission and former Maine Gov. Angus King, an independent, will serve as vice chairman. After its recommendations on Medicaid cuts, the panel must produce a second report in December 2006 on ways to ensure the program's long-term fiscal viability.