Two Democratic governors met privately on Thursday with Democratic members of the deficit-reduction super committee, urging against any effort to shift Medicaid-related costs and other expenses to the states.
In attendance was Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association, and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick joined by telephone. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire was slated to join the meeting, which was organized by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who attended, but couldn't make it.
The governors’ main message to the Democratic members of the deficit panel was about Medicaid-related costs and who is responsible for them, but they also pressed job creation in general and aspects of Obama’s defeated jobs bill.
Along with super committee Cochairwoman Patty Murray, a senator from Washington, Democrats on the deficit committee are Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and John Kerry of Massachusetts; and Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Xavier Becerra of California, and James Clyburn of South Carolina.
The 12-member bipartisan panel has until Nov. 23 to vote on recommending at least $1.2 trillion in deficit-reduction moves to Congress in order to avoid triggering potentially painful across-the-board cuts.
O’Malley and Dayton were set to meet later with White House Chief of Staff William Daley.
In a letter sent on Thursday before the meeting to all 12 super committee members, O’Malley and other Democratic governors asked the panel to act according to four main principles.
They urged that the committee “protect Medicaid,” focus on job creation, avoid “job-killing cuts and cost shifts to the states,” and take a “balanced approach” where “every avenue for deficit reduction, including revenue increases,” is explored.
On Medicaid, the letter urged that it be left alone, and “damaging cuts” to the federal health program for the sick and disabled not be pursued.
The letter also dismissed a proposal from President Obama to streamline how federal Medicaid matching rates are calculated, arguing that it will simply lead to states having to fund an even greater piece of the program. The federal government on average picks up half of Medicaid costs for states. Medicaid spending makes up the largest chunk of most state budgets.
The Democratic governors went on to spell out their strong opposition to a plan from Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would “block grant” Medicaid, handing over more power to states to run the program while slashing federal funding.
To achieve Medicaid savings, the governors told the super committee to give them more flexibility in managing care for seniors who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. When states reduce costs for the “dual eligible” population, for example by making sure patients take their medication after a hospital stay, they do not see those savings in their Medicaid bottom line—it instead goes to Medicare.
The letter at one point slammed the Republican administration of former President George W. Bush for the nation’s economic ills.
“In all the many difficult decisions we have to make as a country, job creation must be our top priority,” the letter argued. “We will only get out of the Bush recession, and retire the Bush deficit, if we employ more of our people,” the letter states.