Changes in Federal Medicaid Program Unlikely This Year

Chances of Congress changing the Medicaid program this year are dim, according to the Kaiser Network''s Daily Health Policy Report.

Efforts to alter the program have stalled for the time being because the nation''s governors could not agree on whether to endorse the Medicaid plan proposed by President Bush (Heil (see "Bush Proposes to Give States More Control Over Medicaid," ElderLawAnswers, 2/3/03).

The governors did agree that the final Medicare prescription drug bill should include a provision in the House bill (HR 1) that would require Medicare to pay for prescriptions for low-income elderly people who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare.

The Medicare Rights Center and nearly a hundred other advocacy organizations are calling for inclusion of this provision in the final Medicare bill.

Leading Democratic presidential candidates, including Governor Howard Dean and Senators John Edwards, Bob Graham and John Kerry, joined the consumer groups in urging Medicare conference committee members to support provisions in the House Medicare bill that provide a Medicare drug benefit to all people with Medicare.

'Congress must protect Medicare from deteriorating into a two-tiered system where poorer people are threatened with poorer benefits,' said Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center. 'The strength of Medicare is that everyone is guaranteed access to the same core benefits regardless of their income or where they live.'

The prescription drug bill passed by the House this summer ensures that the 6.4 million people with both Medicare and Medicaid '“ the 'dual eligibles' '“ will have full access to the drug coverage that is expected to be a Medicare benefit in 2006. The Senate version of the bill, however, would limit those with both Medicare and Medicaid to only obtaining their drugs through the state Medicaid programs. That coverage, Mr. Hayes said, is eroding in many states.

To read the full Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, click here.

For the Medicare Rights Center''s press release on Medicare drug coverage for dual eligibles, click here.