Tag Archives: harkin

Alexander’s Medicaid-Higher Education Link Questioned

Sen. Lamar Alexander’s contention that rising Medicaid costs drain money away from public colleges and universities drew a challenge Thursday from Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin.
Further from The Tennessean:
The issue arose at a hearing of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee on the affordability of higher education.
Alexander, a Republican on the committee, repeated his argument that spending on Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, deprives states of funds they could use to support their higher education systems and reduce costs for students and their families.
Over the last 30 years, Alexander said, the share of state budgets devoted to Medicaid has increased from 8 percent to 25 percent.
“That’s true everywhere in the country. This is not President (Barack) Obama. This has been going on for 30 years,” the second-term senator said.
Alexander said states should propose a swap where the federal government would take over all Medicaid costs and the states would handle all education costs. It would leaves states better off, he said, by $92 billion a year.
Afterward, the Tennessee senator said he is drafting legislation to be introduced next year that would offer several options for helping to reduce state Medicaid costs, including his swap idea.
But with Alexander gone from the hearing, Harkin, a Democrat and the committee chairman, took issue with blaming higher education’s financial problems on Medicaid. Many factors have caused Medicaid costs to soar, Harkin said, including the fact that poverty has been increasing.
“We have a growing number of poor people,” he said. “Just look at the data.”
And, Harkin said, there is a moral responsibility involved.
“They (the poor) still have to be taken care of,” he said. “I hope we are not trying to pit poor kids against college kids.”
States have also hurt themselves, the Iowa senator said, by repeatedly cutting taxes in good times, putting a greater squeeze on their budgets during bad times.