Governors Seek Wider Authority on Medicaid Clinton and Congress Will Study Proposals

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The nation's governors proposed Tuesday that they be given much broader authority to run Medicaid as they see fit, while still preserving a guarantee of health care benefits for the needy.

The governors also compromised on a bipartisan plan to overhaul welfare. They then called on President Bill Clinton and Congress to adopt their new proposals to end the budget dispute between the White House and Congress.

The administration and GOP leaders responded by immediately expressing interest in the governors' broad if somewhat vague prescriptions. Clinton told the governors, "This is a huge step in the right direction." House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., announced that Congress would hold prompt hearings on the proposals.

Yet lawmakers were divided over whether the governors had come up with ingredients that would somehow transform the bogged-down budget process.

Under the governors' Medicaid blueprint, "the nation's most vulnerable populations" would continue to receive coverage. These include pregnant women and children up to age 12 whose families are under the poverty line, or in some cases, somewhat above it.

At the same time, states would be given new flexibility in a host of areas, some potentially controversial, such as setting disability r equirements for Medicaid coverage.

The welfare proposal is highlighted by $4 billion extra for child-care funding to help parents comply with work rules, and an extra $1 billion to help states hit by recession.

The Medicaid and welfare proposals, which were approved unanimously, also have weight because the governors essentially run those programs in their states. …