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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Senator Seeks More Medicaid Fixes

By Winthrop Quigley
Journal Staff Writer
    SANTA FE --Lawmakers need to create another Medicaid Reform Committee to attack the program's rising costs because proposed fixes from a similar group last year don't go far enough, Sen. Ramsay Gorham, R-Albuquerque, said.
    Gorham has introduced legislation (SB 895) that would establish another legislative committee to recommend changes in the Medicaid program to next year's Legislature. Her bill has cleared the Senate and is awaiting House committee action.
    Gorham said in an interview earlier this week that last year's effort was well-intentioned, "but it didn't get us to where we need to go."
    The legislative Medicaid Reform Committee met for nine months in 2002 and recommended a number of program changes, studies and financing mechanisms that proponents say would reduce state spending by tens of millions of dollars.
    "That's not even a drop in the bucket of the overall cost," Gorham said.
    The state is expected to spend $380 million this year on the program, designed to provide health care to the poor, primarily poor children and elderly.
    Legislators have considered bills to tap state permanent and tobacco settlement funds to balance the budget, Gorham said. "The major reason this is taking place is not education reform, it's the Medicaid entitlement drain," she said.
    Gorham's bill would create a Medicaid task force composed of 12 members appointed by the majority and minority leaders of both legislative houses and by the governor.
    Last year's committee included 12 legislators who were advised by an 18-member committee. Gorham was a reform committee member.
    The sheer number of people at the table last year made decision making difficult, she said, while the advisory group "was really slanted toward the providers (of Medicaid services). As a result you are asking people who received their income from Medicaid to cut their own budgets."