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Commentary

Katrina's Victims Deserve Better than Medicaid
Nina Owcharenko, Heritage Foundation, 9-26-05

Owcharenko believes that the President and Congress should resist the temptation to expand the Medicaid entitlement to cover victims of Hurricane Katrina. Instead, she believes that the federal government should give states more flexibility in administering Medicaid benefits, offer generous health grants to reimburse providers, and direct premium subsidies to help hurricane survivors maintain their existing private health insurance coverage.

Donna Shalala, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under President Clinton, says that all Katrina survivors should be enrolled in Medicaid, the federal-state health care entitlement program for the poor.
Congress should not support any such effort. Putting Katrina survivors into Medicaid goes directly against the goals of restoring stability and normalcy and encouraging personal independence—as opposed to greater government control and dependence. Moreover, Medicaid, already financially troubled, is simply another government program that directs dollars to a bureaucracy rather than to people. There are very few Americans who would voluntarily give up their private insurance to enroll in Medicaid.
Instead of expanding Medicaid, Congress and the Administration should consider ways to assist hurricane survivors directly by helping them maintain their existing private health care coverage or obtain private coverage of their own. Such an approach is a far better way for the federal government to help get individuals and families back on their feet and enable them to keep and get the kind of coverage they want.


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