Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today expressed disappointment that the Finance Committee voted to preserve $10 billion in subsidies to 1.5 million families earning $66,000 to $88,000 a year instead of using that money to improve access to health care services for 30 million children in Medicaid, as he proposed.
"My amendment was an opportunity to improve access for the poorest kids," Grassley said. "It could have happened by reducing subsidies to families that in some cases earn more money than the national median income. Instead, we're leaving the poorest kids with the Medicaid program as is, which means they're lucky to find doctors, hospitals, and dentists to treat them. Maybe they're covered, but if they don't have access to treatment, that's not an improvement on what we have today."
Grassley is the ranking member of the Finance Committee, which is considering a major health care reform bill. The committee defeated his amendment to require states to raise reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers such as pediatricians, children's hospitals, and dentists providing care for eligible children to Medicare rates, which are higher. Grassley's amendment was paid for by reducing the underlying legislation's federal subsidies for families earning $66,000 to $88,000 a year to help them buy health insurance.
Grassley said the underlying bill before the committee likely would decrease children's access to care by giving states a financial incentive to cover more adults. Medicaid payment rates to doctors and hospitals are already very low, and since the bill does not improve financial incentives to treat children, Grassley is concerned that children would get short shrift in Medicaid -- possibly covered but lacking access to doctors willing to participate in the program.