Governors’ Welfare Plan Criticized by White House

Administration officials said Monday that the Clinton administration will soon raise major objections to changes in welfare and Medicaid that were unanimously recommended by the nation’s governors. After studying the proposals for three weeks, administration officials said they had found many reasons for concern. A draft of secretary of health and human services Donna Shalala’s testimony says the federal guarantee of Medicaid coverage under the governors’ plan “does not appear to be real and enforceable for beneficiaries.”

The testimony, prepared for a Senate hearing on Wednesday also said that the governors’ proposals are unacceptable because they could harm people who receive welfare, food stamps or Medicaid; children who have been abused or neglected; doctors; hospitals; and the federal government. Shalala explains that “Some long-standing protections would be reduced or eliminated” and “Medicaid would be the sole federal statute conferring benefits on individuals with no possibility of federal enforcement by its intended beneficiaries.”

Shalala said that “individuals with HIV, certain physical disabilities or mental illness could be precluded from receiving critically need services under Medicaid” if governors repealed the federal definition of disability and allowed states to set their own eligibility standards. Federal standards for nursing homes could also “be rendered meaningless” without federal monitoring and enforcement, Shalala said.

Shalala objects to block-granting money for child protection services which she says could “jeopardize the ultimate safety net for abused and neglected children. Shalala also said the administration strenuously objects to allowing some states to run their own food stamp programs with lump sum of federal funds and minimal federal standards, another part of the governors’ plan.

The White House may pursue a two-track strategy, making vague, favorable comments about the intentions of the governors’ plan while objecting to many of the important details of the proposals.


The Nando Times and New York Times News Service - February 27, 1996

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