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Senate Rejects Proposed Medicaid Cuts

March 17, 2005

By a bipartisan vote of 52-48, the Senate today stripped a proposal to require $15 billion in cuts to the Medicaid program over the next five years.  The vote came on an amendment to the FY 2006 budget resolution authored by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to remove the proposed cuts to Medicaid and replace them with a commission to examine long-term reforms to the program. 

NAMI strongly supported the Smith-Bingaman Amendment and is extremely grateful to the 52 Senators that voted for it today.  In particular, NAMI appreciates the support of Senators who crossed party lines to oppose cuts to Medicaid:  Chafee (RI), Coleman (MN), Collins (ME), DeWine (OH), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), and Specter (PA).  NAMI advocates are strongly encouraged to contact their Senators who supported the Smith-Bingaman Amendment.

$20 Billion in Medicaid Cuts Remain in House Budget Resolution

While the Senate is now on record against cuts in Medicaid, the House budget resolution -- which cleared the House this afternoon by a 218-214 margin -- still contains a requirement for $20 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next five years.  When Congress returns from its upcoming Easter recess on April 4, a House-Senate Conference Committee will reconcile differences between the separate proposals.  It is expected that pressure will be brought from the White House and House and Senate leaders to restore the cuts to Medicaid that were stripped by the Senate today.  Thus strong grassroots pressure during the coming Easter recess will be critically important to keeping Medicaid cuts out of the final budget resolution. 

Action Required

Starting March 21, Congress will be on a two-week "district work period" during which members will be in their states and districts meeting with constituents, holding town meetings and appearing on local radio call-in programs.  NAMI advocates are encouraged to reach out to Senators and House members through phone calls, e-mails and personal visits to express support for the Smith-Bingaman Amendment to keep Medicaid cuts out of the FY 2006 budget resolution. 

Remind members of the Congress that:

  • Medicaid is the largest source of funding for the public mental health system in every state – especially optional services each state Medicaid program offers to mandatory beneficiaries (particularly individuals eligible for SSI). These optional services include prescription drugs, case management and assertive community treatment.
  • The growth in Medicaid spending in recent years is driven by overall health care costs in the economy – NOT by the demands of program beneficiaries with severe disabilities and chronic illnesses who rely on Medicaid as a safety net. In fact, Medicaid growth is actually below that for insurance premiums in the private sector.
  • The burden for deficit reduction should not fall hardest on the most vulnerable and disabled – including children and adults with severe mental illnesses.
  • A bipartisan Medicaid commission will ensure that efforts to reform the program and restrain future spending are based on established principles and goals for reforms, NOT an arbitrary budget target.

All congressional offices can be reached by calling toll-free 1-800-828-0498. 

Read additional information on the Smith-Bingaman Amendment and Medicaid.