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Senate Finance Enacts Savings, Efficiency Reforms

Budget plan "first step" to program improvements

Washington, DC â??A plan to save more than $10 billion over five years while starting to address federal health program improvements was approved today by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and his colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee. The deal addresses inefficiencies within the Medicare and Medicaid programs and strives to maintain access to health care for beneficiaries.The Committee approved the savings in its budget reconciliation measure, mandated as part of the 2006 Senate Budget resolution. In addition to program savings, the bill includes provisions to benefit rural and community hospitals, and financial protection for small hospitals that provide a large amount of care to Medicare patients. In addition, the package includes $1.8 billion in Medicaid benefits for Hurricane Katrina victims. The reconciliation package also provides funds to programs like the State Childrenâ??s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to expand enrollment, increases resources to pursue Medicaid abuse and fraud, and provides new options through private coverage of long-term care under Medicaid. Crapo expressed strong concern, however, that the bill does not include reforms designed to give states more flexibility in administering Medicaid, and that some programs affected by the reconciliation were approved in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 and have not yet had a chance to succeed. Crapo especially believes the Committee did not go far enough with the Medicaid reforms endorsed by the National Governors Association task force on Medicaid, led by Governor Kempthorne. â??This reconciliation package is a compromise, so it isnâ??t a perfect bill to everyone,â?? said Crapo. â??While this budget seeks to exercise fiscal responsibility and address healthcare concerns, I am concerned that the bill doesn't go far enough in giving states more flexibility and less regulation in running their Medicaid programs. I also share the Presidentâ??s concern with provisions in this package that eliminate funds for Medicare programs that havenâ??t even begun operating. Iâ??m supporting this package because of the improvements that are included, and in an effort to move the budget process forward. I hope this Committee process is a first step and these concerns can be rectified when the Senate and House conferees meet over this package. â??The Finance Committee reconciliation report will now go to the Senate Budget Committee to be included in a larger budget reconciliation package. If approved by the Budget Committee, that package will then be sent to the Senate floor for full consideration. Additionally, the Senate Finance Committee will meet in the coming days regarding tax portions of the federal budget. # # #