The so-called continuing resolution for the remainder of 2011 that is the center of debate on Capitol Hill this week deals with discretionary spending, but not entitlement programs. House and Senate Republicans recently chided President Barack Obama for not tackling entitlement reform in his budget, which he released Feb. 14. The House will release its budget this spring, and Cantor's comments suggest entitlement reform will be a part of that financial framework.
Cantor was the first of several prominent speakers in a list that included CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who drew laughs from the crowded audience of investor-owned or -managed hospitals when he said, “I love hospitals that pay taxes.”
Barbour told audience members that Mississippi's Medicaid program saw its enrollment drop about 23% to 580,000 beneficiaries from 750,000 after the state began requiring beneficiaries to establish their eligibility in person, a practice he said began in his first year as governor. Barbour has been in office since January 2004.
Hatch, ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, criticized last year's health reform law and said its expansion of Medicaid will “bankrupt” the states, which already have strained state budgets. Hatch also cited Congressional Budget Office figures that say the law's expansion to Medicaid will cost taxpayers $435 billion over the next 10 years.