WASHINGTON IN BRIEF

WASHINGTON IN BRIEF

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Medicaid Funding for Schools Cut

The Bush administration yesterday eliminated about $700 million a year in Medicaid reimbursements to schools, sidestepping an attempt by Congress to block such a move.

The new rule, issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is expected to save the federal government $3.6 billion over five years, transferring those costs to school districts.

Lawmakers this week passed legislation to place a six-month moratorium on Medicaid implementing the rule change, but President Bush had not signed the bill.

A wide range of medical services, such as speech and physical therapy, are furnished to students in schools. Medicaid, the government's health insurance program for the poor, will continue to pay for those services for low-income children.

But the new rule will restrict when schools can bill the federal government for clerical work associated with providing health care. For example, schools can no longer expect Medicaid reimbursement for planning student immunizations. Schools also will not get paid for transporting students getting speech or physical therapy to school or back home.

Hundreds of people, most of them opposed to the change, commented in writing to CMS on the proposal. School principals and superintendents said that the loss of the funding could mean that schools would have to cut back on other programs.

CMS officials said that most of the comments validated their concern that schools were improperly using Medicaid funding to pay for services "that are clearly educational in nature."

White House Visitor Lists Stay Secret

A federal judge agreed to let the Bush administration keep secret the lists of visitors to the White House until an appeals court decides whether the documents are public records.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered the Secret Service this week to turn over the records under the Freedom of Information Act.

The logs sought by the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington involve visits to the White House and Vice President Cheney's residence by nine religious commentators, including James Dobson, Gary Bauer and Jerry Falwell.

-- From News Services


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