KOHL: WE SHOULD CUT MEDICAID COSTS, NOT SERVICES


WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), today pressed lawmakers to restrain Medicaid spending by adopting innovative reforms, pioneered in states like Wisconsin and Arizona.

"There is no question that the current trends in Medicaid growth and spending are not sustainable for the federal government or state governments," Kohl said. "However, innovative policies are helping many states reduce costs while providing quality care. We should learn from them, make quality care a priority, and avoid making cuts to the Medicaid program based on arbitrary budget targets."

According to recent data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicaid is now the largest health care program in the country, covering more than 60 million people. More than 70 percent of Medicaid's spending is on the elderly and disabled.

"In my state of Wisconsin Medicaid provides quality services to a much broader population than is required by law," Kohl said. "Governor Doyle has worked to avoid limiting enrollment and services, seeking instead to buy prescription drugs at better prices and rely on home and community based care options as an alternative to costly long-term care institutions."

CMS projects that federal Medicaid expenses will increase by 1.8% in FY 2006. Medicaid spending has slowed because of the shift of prescription drug costs to Medicare's "Part D" program.

Kohl's comments today came during a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing that featured Richard Wagoner, Chairman and CEO of General Motors and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, both called to testify about how their organizations are coping with rapidly rising prescription drug and health care costs.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Kohl will chair a hearing next week highlighting efforts to expedite the approval of cost-saving generic prescription drugs.