12/25/2004

Governors of both parties resist the Scrooge-In-Chief's Medicare agenda:
Fearful that President Bush plans to shift more Medicaid costs to the states, the nation's governors are mounting a bipartisan lobbying effort to stave off new federal limits on the program. Medicaid, the nation's largest health insurance program, is costing the states and the federal government more than $300 billion a year. The growth of the program, which covers the poor and disabled, has outpaced state revenues, and Medicaid is now a larger component of total state spending than elementary and secondary education combined, according to the National Governors Association. Showing rare bipartisan unity, governors of both parties said in interviews this week that they would press hard in the coming months to preserve or even increase their current Medicaid allotments. "I certainly understand the need to balance the federal budget," said Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican and the vice chairman of the governors association. "But people need to remember that to balance the federal budget off the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don't pull feeding tubes from people. You don't pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy." The association's chairman, Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, a Democrat, said the governors were "much more in unanimity on this issue than they are on most issues." He added, "We do see on a regular basis that unless the governors step up, you will see cost-shifting done because it relieves the federal problem." The governors could find themselves on a collision course with Mr. Bush, who has pledged to cut the federal budget deficit in half in the next five years. A bipartisan lobbying effort would also put pressure on the Republican-controlled Congress. The White House has not tipped its hand on its new budget and has declined to comment on its plans for Medicaid. Federal officials, however, have said they are sending auditors to state capitals to review Medicaid programs and cracking down on methods that states have been using to try to get as much federal Medicaid money as possible.

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