Stateline Story

Governors Split on Obama's Medicaid Plan

  • April 14, 2011
  • By Christine Vestal
NO BLOCK GRANT:  President Obama's commitment to preserving the current Medicaid program was met with praise from Democratic governors and skepticism from Republicans. In a speech delivered yesterday at George Washington University, Obama announced an administration plan to reduce Medicaid spending without establishing a block grant system, as proposed by House Republicans. Building on cost-efficiency measures outlined in the 2010 national health care law, the administration aims to cut Medicaid and Medicare costs more than $400 billion by 2023 and an additional $1 trillion in the subsequent decade. The administration's plan includes speeding generic drugs onto the market, working with states to improve Medicaid efficiency and accountability and giving doctors and hospitals incentives to better coordinate care. 
 
EXCHANGE LAWS:   Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed a bill this week authorizing the creation of a state health insurance exchange, as required by the 2010 health law. California and West Virginia are the only other states with such laws so far.  Last week, New Mexico's Republican Governor Susana Martinez vetoed a bill that would have created an exchange, because she said the federal government has not yet issued rules laying out how states should structure the health insurance shopping Web sites. 

MEDICAID BUDGETING:  Republican Governor Jan Brewer's plan to help balance Arizona's budget by dropping Medicaid coverage for about 138,000 adults is headed to court. An article in Bloomberg Businessweek reports a public interest attorney saying a lawsuit challenging Brewer's plan would be filed soon, probably with the Arizona Supreme Court. At issue is a law approved by voters in 2000 that expanded Medicaid services for low-income adults. While cutting back Medicaid funding in general, the budget Brewer signed last week restored coverage for pancreas, liver, heart and lung transplants. The governor's denial of organ transplant assistance last year grabbed national headlines and enraged patient advocates and members of the legislature. 

FRIEND OF THE COURT: 
Missouri
Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat who generally supports the national health care law, filed a brief against its mandatory insurance provision in the Florida federal court case weighing the law's constitutionality. Koster explained in his April 11 filing that the law's requirement for most people to purchase health insurance conflicts with a 2010 voter-approved law in Missouri prohibiting enforcement of such a mandate. Koster added that the insurance provision is severable from the federal law and that all other sections of the law should be allowed to stand.