Block Grant Plan Among Medicaid Alternatives Eyed By GOP

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is among those who advocate this concept, but the Obama administration's Medicaid chief "shot down" the approach.

National Journal: Barbour Calls For Medicaid Block Grant As GOP Eyes Reform Alternatives
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, said he would push Congress to turn the federal-state Medicaid program into a block grant, where states receive a lump sum and the ability to redesign the program with little government intervention. "I'll tell you what, most governors would take that in a heartbeat," Barbour told hospital executives at the Federation of American Hospitals meeting this morning. "Not only would we make Medicaid better, we would also make Medicaid less expensive." Barbour's comments have weight despite little chance the Obama administration would go for such a move. The governor is a potential 2012 presidential candidate, and states have widening budget shortfalls (DoBias, 3/1).

The Hill: Vague On Details, Health Official Rejects GOP Govs' Medicaid Pitch
President Obama's Medicaid chief shot down a proposal gaining traction among Republican governors to transform Medicaid into block-grant payments as the states face mounting costs running the health care program for poor individuals. As states are facing massive budget deficits, more than half of the nation’s governors are looking for relief from a requirement in the new health care reform law to maintain Medicaid eligibility through 2014. Many Republican governors are pushing for Medicaid block grants, instead of a federal match, because they say it would provide them with the maximum flexibility to address budget shortfalls while ensuring the health care safety net remains in place for low-income individuals. However, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Don Berwick, stressing his support for states' flexibility, told reporters on Tuesday that block grants aren't on the table (Millman, 3/1).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.