Washington’s Latest “Power Grab”

The New York Times has an article this morning on the Administration’s proposed new Medicaid regulations.  The regulations, which were released Friday, will according to the article “make it much more difficult for states to cut Medicaid payments” and “could also put pressure on some states to increase Medicaid payments” – both of which will further exacerbate states’ already difficult fiscal situations.

The article also includes a sampling of reactions from state Medicaid directors to the proposed rule, which shows the bipartisan opposition to yet another attempt by the federal government to micro-manage state programs:

Dennis Smith, secretary of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services:  “A federal power grab….Putting states in jeopardy, by inventing a new meaning for a longstanding statutory provision, is another example of how distant and disconnected the administration is from what is happening across the country.”

Douglas Porter, Washington state’s Medicaid director:  “The Administration has gone overboard, creating a system of access review that is far too complex, elaborate and burdensome.”  (As a reminder, Washington state’s governor is a Democrat.)

Bruce Greenstein, secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals:  “The proposal leaves too much discretion with the federal government. It does not clearly enunciate the criteria to be used in measuring access to care.”

Unfortunately, the article notes that Washington could impose even more new mandates on Medicaid programs in the months to come: “The new rule does not apply to managed care.  But the Obama administration said it was ‘considering future proposals’ to guarantee access to care for Medicaid recipients in such private health plans.”

States are already suffering from record budget deficits, due in large part to the continued sluggish economy.  Having failed to deliver the lower unemployment and economic growth that could help alleviate state budgetary shortfalls, the Obama Administration instead is working to exacerbate them, by imposing new mandates that could force states to raise taxes or cut other essential government spending.