Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bush Proposal for Katrina Survivors: The Devil Is In the Details

At first hearing, the President's proposals to aid Hurricane Katrina survivors sound like a splendid progressive Democratic plan, reminiscent of FDR. But, as with all things proposed by the Bush Administration, the devil of dishonesty and unfairness is in the the details.....
From the Center for American Progress....

Hurricane Katrina has created a health as well as a humanitarian crisis. To help stop the growing healthcare crisis, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) have introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure that Katrina survivors who have been displaced by the storm receive desperately-needed health care.

The bill would "pay the full costs of Medicaid for [Hurricane Katrina] survivors who are now located in other states for five months, with an option to extend that five more months," pay the full Medicaid costs for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through December 2006, and expand Medicaid to hurricane survivors with incomes under the poverty line, including non-disabled, childless adults who are not typically eligible for coverage, through the disaster relief period. This bill drew rare bi-partisan praise from both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The Grassley/Baucus bill goes beyond the few measures laid out by the Bush administration and will aid all Katrina victims quickly and fairly.

President Bush’s plan does not cover all victims now. The Bush administration approved federal Medicaid funding for victims of Hurricane Katrina currently in Texas. While that is good news for some -- but not all -- victims in Texas, there are hundreds of thousands of victims who have moved to other states. Under the Bush plan, victims have to wait for the state they’re living in to apply for and receive funding – a process that could take weeks if not months. The hurricane victims who need medical treatment need it now, and that is the relief that is provided in the Grassley/Baucus bill.

Bush’s plan does not treat all hurricane victims fairly. Under the Bush administration plan, victims who are currently in Texas would lose their eligibility if they move to another state to reunite with their families. Even if the state they move to gets approved for similar funding, victims may receive fewer services or be responsible for more out-of-pocket costs. States are not obligated to apply for additional funding so people in some states may never become eligible. The Grassley/Baucus bill would avoid this problem by creating uniform eligibility for all victims.

The Grassley/Baucus bill will guarantee people, providers and states are helped. Under the bill, the federal government would pay the full cost of Medicaid coverage for all residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through December 2006. In addition, the proposal would ensure that no state would experience a decrease in its federal matching rate in 2006. In addition, a new, federally administered Disaster Relief Fund would offset uncompensated care costs that health care providers have incurred caring for Katrina survivors.

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