After arguing that legislation to cut over-payments to private insurers would “harm beneficiaries by taking private health plan options away from them,” President Bush, on Friday, “narrowed the scope of services that can be provided to poor people under Medicaid’s outpatient hospital benefit.”
The new regulation arrives at a time when states are considering limiting Medicaid eligibility and Americans are losing their employer health benefits. In fact, the administration issued its rule to take public “health options away” on the very same day that the Department of Labor announced that the U.S. unemployment rate is at a 14-year high of 6.5 percent.
“Public hospitals and state officials immediately protested the action, saying it would reduce Medicaid payments to many hospitals at a time of growing need,” the New York Times reports. Ann Clemency Kohler, the executive director of the National Association of State Medicaid Directors, said:
The new rule is a pretty sweeping change from longtime Medicaid policy. Since the beginning of the program, states have been allowed to define hospital outpatient services. We have to question why the rule is being issued now, three days after the election, with a new administration coming in.
Bush’s last-minute effort to deny public health care benefits to millions of Americans squares with his health care legacy, however. As recently as February 2008, Bush proposed cutting Medicaid by $18.2 billion over five years, essentially “shifting costs to the states” and forcing “states to institute even bigger program cuts or tax increases,” according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). In January of 2008, the Bush administration imposed restrictions on the “ability of states to expand eligibility for Medicaid, in an effort to prevent them from offering coverage to families of modest incomes.”