Dems Bail on Medicaid Reform Commission

Democratic lawmakers said Thursday that they would not participate on a commission that will recommend how to trim Medicaid (search) by $10 billion over the next five years.

Michael Leavitt (search), the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, announced last week the framework of the commission, which was mandated by Congress. He will appoint up to 15 voting members and 15 non-voting members.

Republican lawmakers were invited to designate four lawmakers to serve as non-voting members, and Democrats were invited to do the same.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, said that they would not accept an advisory role for lawmakers rather than a voting role.

"Unfortunately, the partisan nature of the commission and the lack of voting rights are not our only reasons for refusing to appoint members," the two lawmakers said in a prepared statement. "We fundamentally disagree with the premise that this commission should make recommendations on how to cut Medicaid outlays by $10 billion by Sept. 1."

The senior Democrats on the congressional committees overseeing Medicaid also declined to participate.

Press aides for Leavitt did not have an immediate response.

Last month, Congress narrowly passed a budget blueprint that included a $10 billion reduction in Medicaid. The changes wouldn't begin until 2007, giving the specially convened commission and the nation's governors time to recommend cost-saving proposals.

Medicaid, funded by both the federal government and the states, provides health care for more than 52 million low-income people. It is the nation's largest health care program, and makes up about 17 percent of all state funding.