Sebelius, GOP Face Off At House Hearing

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stuck to the usual talking points Wednesday as she appeared before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in defense of implementation of the health law and the president's budget request for her agency. She also told Republicans that that there is no system by which Medicaid block grants can be created.

Kaiser Health News: Sebelius, GOP Tussle At House Hearing
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Aimee Miles writes: "President Obama's top health official stuck to familiar talking points in a congressional hearing Thursday, defending the president's agenda from attacks by a GOP-led House subcommittee that focused on the administration's budget request and implementation of the health care law" (Miles, 3/3).

National Journal: No Block Grants, Sebelius Says
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Republicans on Thursday that there is no system for creating block grants for Medicaid. Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee for the first time since the overhaul law passed, ostensibly to defend the president's 2012 budget request for her agency. But mostly she was asked to address the Republican pet issue of the week — Medicaid, and ways to achieve "flexibility" for states. Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts, R-Pa., asked Sebelius if she would back turning Medicaid into a block grant program, giving states nearly complete control on how federal Medicaid dollars are spent (McCarthy, 3/3).

Meanwhile —

Modern Healthcare: Medicaid Legislation Coming, Lawmaker Says
The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee said Thursday there will be forthcoming House bills on the Medicaid program's maintenance-of-effort requirement and block grant funding to states, although he did not offer specific information on what those pieces of legislation will contain. Also, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee, referred to the president's recent invitation to governors on developing a bipartisan proposal on the Medicaid program. "If states are instead forced to impose steep reductions in payments to providers, they will likely drive more doctors and other providers out of the Medicaid program, and, in some cases, out of practice of medicine altogether," Upton said, adding that the maintenance-of-effort requirements are a "good place to start" if the president is looking for a bipartisan proposal in this area (Zigmond, 3/3).

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