Medicaid takes priority over Medicare

Medicaid is moving up the government's priority list, giving hospitals hope of seeing lower expenses for uninsured care. Senior economic adviser Gene Sperling said the White House is prepared to make cuts to Medicare to protect the Medicaid program, reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

"Medicaid savings, Medicaid cuts, for this administration, are not on the table," Sperling said yesterday at a conference organized by the advocacy group Families USA.

By not making any federal Medicaid cuts in the upcoming budget proposal, the White House aims to reassure governors who are still undecided about expanding their Medicaid programs, Medpage Today reported. For governors worried about ultimately being left to foot the bill for more Medicaid beneficiaries, "The rug will not be pulled out from them," Sperling noted.

Reinforcing the move to prioritize Medicaid over Medicare, Senators continue to urge governors to opt into Medicaid expansion, according to another Medpage Today article.

California seems to be listening to lawmakers' calls for Medicaid expansion, as newly introduced legislation would open up Medi-Cal to more than 1 million new people. That would put California on track to become the first state to officially expand its Medicaid program in line with the health reform law.

But state decisions to forgo expanding Medicaid can hurt hospitals' bottom lines, according to Jonathan Burroughs, physician executive and CEO of The Burroughs Healthcare Consulting Network. Expansion provides hospitals with much needed relief to offset shrinking disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments, as well as higher uncompensated care costs, Burroughs noted in a Hospital Impact post last week.

Moreover, disregarding steps to reduce the number of uninsured patients could force some healthcare organizations to tighten their charity care policies and restrict their community benefit programs.

For more:
- read the Hill's Healthwatch article
- here's the Medpage article on Medicare cuts and Medicaid expansion