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Cannon on Negron Medicaid proposal: "An unrealistic risk"

House Speaker Dean Cannon who is in Washington for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the House plans to stick by the Medicaid overhaul the House and Senate reached last November.

He said he hadn't seen details of an alternative being floated by Sen. Joe Negron, but added, I just think we need to be very careful about threatening to withdraw from a program, unless we're fully prepared to do it."

He noted the state supplies $4 billion for Medicaid, and the federal government in excess of $16 billion: "So unless we are prepared to try and provide the same amount of health care with $4 billion that we currently provide with $20 billion...We need to be prepared for that and make sure we can answer those questions before we make a major, precipitious decision like that."

He didn't rule out backing a change "if the facts support it," but added, "that’s a serious major, policy shift and is not consistent with what we had talked about doing during special session."

Cannon said he hadn't yet talked to Negron and "there's plenty of time on the clock," but added, "I don’t think we should anticipate that the federal government will grant a massive waiver because I don't think CMS even has the authority to do that.

"It would take an act of Congress to give them the type of authority that chairman Negron was talking about," he said, noting that the House/Senate plan could begin without any new waivers. "I think there's much a greater likelihood that they would be willing to continue that because we would be doing something that we have on the ground evidence that it works."

He called Negron's suggestion that the state should ask the federal government "for a waiver of most of the provisions, a fairly grandious waiver." And he said he had talked to a few members of congress "who said the chances of that getting through congress now are not there."

"I'm all for pursuing flexiblity from the federal government, but as conservatives we operate in the real world and what the facts are, not as we wish them to be."

He said he'd prefer to rely on the "prudence of what we outlined in the House and Senate memorial… as opposed to trying to essentially rebuild the whole thing from scratch and gamble on the likelihood that Washington bureaucrats will bless it, which I think is a unrealistic risk."

"In my mind, we've already outlined where we're going on Medicaid and unless someone tells me differently, that’s the direction we're going."