By Kathleen Hunter, Stateline.org Staff Writer
The nation’s governors are seeking consensus on a new blueprint to fundamentally restructure Medicaid, the government’s largest health care program, that seeks to stem its exploding costs without cutting off medical care for more Americans.
A task force of 11 governors released a four-page summary on June 1 of proposals that now will go before all 50 governors at the National Governors Association’s annual meeting in July. More details are expected to emerge June 15 when NGA Chairman Gov. Mark Warner (D) of Virginia and Vice Chairman Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) of Arkansas testify before the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee.
The NGA plan, many elements of which previously have been reported, focuses on granting states more flexibility to try innovations in managing their Medicaid programs, on making it easier for low-income and disabled people to secure private health insurance, and on reducing Medicaid's role in funding nursing home and long-term care.
Medicaid has eclipsed K-12 education as the single largest portion of states' budgets, making it a top concern for governors. But the program, which pays for nearly half of all long-term care and covers almost two-thirds of nursing home residents, also has captured the attention of budget cutters in the White House and Congress.
The governors’ proposal, which they hope will help sway Congress’ efforts to reform Medicaid, calls on the federal government to:
* Allow states to adopt tiered, enforceable co-payments for prescription drugs that Medicaid covers.
* Give states more freedom to innovate by cutting the federal red tape and long waits for states seeking exemptions to Medicaid rules.
* Remove legal barriers to states managing optional Medicaid benefits, in an effort to keep states from landing in court when they try innovative Medicaid strategies.
* Establish a National Health Care Innovations Program that would support 10-15 state-level health care reform initiatives.
For low income seniors, Medicaid is their only hope for long term nursing home care. Before my gandfather passed, my mother, aunt, and uncle sold off all of my grandfathers equity. Then put the money in their names. So my grandfather than would be accepted by Medicaid, for nursing home care. He lived for 3 years there. My mother, aunt, and uncle could not afford to pay for the cost of the nursing home. They were already retired, themslves.