SALT LAKE CITY Two Republican governors urged federal officials Wednesday during a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee to give the states more control over Medicaid, even if it means less federal money going into the program.
An ideal approach for solving the growing Medicaid problem would be block grants to the states without a lot of burdensome requirements, said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. That would give each state the opportunity to decide what works best for them, instead of trying to force the entire country to accept a one-size-fits-all program.
Barbour repeatedly pointed to the health-care reform pushed by President Barack Obama as a major problem for states, even though he said it was modeled in part on a Massachusetts program signed into law by former Gov. Mitt Romney.
Romney is currently leading the crowded field of Republican candidates vying for the partys presidential nomination. Barbour considered a presidential run earlier this year, but eventually decided against it.
Dont make us have Massachusetts-care in Mississippi under the name of ObamaCare, Barbour said. Dont force it on us ... if the federal government was a federal health-care system, they ought to pay for it.
The current federal waiver system is broken because simple requests can take months to process and often get denied for no other reason than its not the approved federal way, Barbour said. For example, he said a waiver to require free physicals for Medicaid patients was denied even though Mississippi was willing to cover the costs.
Barbour was joined by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert at the hearing, which was hosted by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who was also the only committee member in attendance.
Utah submitted a waiver request earlier this month to the federal government that seeks to allow the state to change the reimbursement methods for providers and increases Medicaid co-pays for emergency-room services.
Herbert said it was ridiculous the state has to ask the federal government for permission to do anything with Medicaid.
We ought to be partners with the federal government, not subservient, Herbert said.
Hatch compared the Medicaid issue to the welfare issue, which he said was resolved only when a bipartisan effort was made in Washington and states were given the power to manage welfare as they see best.
We must develop a sustainable Medicaid reform, Hatch said.