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  • Washington Highlights

    House Energy and Commerce Committee Holds Medicaid Hearings

    Len Marquez, Senior Director, Government Relations

    As part of Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal and replace and Medicaid reform debates on Capitol Hill, two House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees held hearings focused on oversight and strengthening the Medicaid program.

    The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Jan. 31 hearing, Medicaid Oversight: Existing Problems and Ways to Strengthen the Program, examined the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and the potential for fraud and abuse throughout the program.

    In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) stated, “While Medicaid provides coverage to millions of low-income and disabled Americans, the program is not immune to challenges – including increasing costs, fraud, and errors with eligibility determination that result in millions of wasted taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, some of America’s most frail and needy citizens remain on waiting lists. We need to ensure that eligible beneficiaries of the program have access to high quality care, while being good stewards of hard earned taxpayer dollars.”  

    Several Republicans also expressed concern that the Medicaid expansion placed pressure on the program as new “able-bodied” beneficiaries impacted access for the traditional beneficiaries.

    In his opening statement, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), attacked Republicans ACA repeal and replace efforts stating, “Congressional Republicans have railed against the Affordable Care Act with a steady drumbeat of repeal and replace. For seven years, they have sabotaged implementation of the law. And here we are today: Republicans are misleading the public with falsehoods that the law is failing.  That could not be further from the truth.”  

    Throughout the hearing, Democrats focused on the importance of the Medicaid expansion as it provided 12 million people with health coverage and reduced uncompensated care for providers.

    The Health Subcommittee Feb. 1 held a hearing, Strengthening Medicaid and Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable, in which several draft bills were discussed: the Verify Eligibility Coverage Act, the Close Annuity Loopholes in Medicaid Act; and the Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Over Lottery Winners Act of 2017.

    Throughout the hearing, committee members debated the future of the Medicaid program with Republicans championing the bills as common sense reform measures and Democrats describing them as attempts to decrease Medicaid enrollment.

    Opening the hearing, Health Subcommittee Chair Michael Burgess, MD (R-Texas) said, “As a physician, I have had the privilege of actually providing health care for hundreds of Medicaid patients. I have looked in their eyes, I have listened to their concerns, I have held their hands, and I know many of their stories. Now I have the privilege of trying to help many patients like this, by holding this Chair and by working with each of you to improve and modernize the Medicaid program.” Dr. Burgess continued, “Today we will start by examining targeted, commonsense steps that can be taken to cut states’ costs, and prioritize care for vulnerable patients who are waiting to access Medicaid services.”

    Ranking Member Pallone expressed committee Democrats’ concern that the legislation being discussed “target specific beneficiaries for exclusion. Bills that ultimately incentivize and reward those states that choose to operate waiting lists for Home and Community Based Services.” Pallone went on to suggest an alternative approach to strengthening Medicaid saying, “[W]e should expand coverage, protect against fraud, and implement advanced delivery system reform. The Affordable Care Act did just that. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 31 states and the District of Columbia have adopted expansion and dramatically lowered the uninsured rate. All 50 states are testing innovative models of care, and Medicaid eligibility and data collection systems have been modernized.”