Democrats Considering Medicare, Medicaid Cuts To Advance Budget Talks
Congressional Democratic leaders and Obama administration officials are considering several proposals that would cut tens of billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid, in an effort to reach agreements with Republicans on a fiscal year 2012 budget and deficit-reduction package, the New York Times reports.
However, the amount of the cuts will depend on Republicans' willingness to accept tax increases, Democrats say (Pear, New York Times, 7/4).
The administration has set a new deadline of July 22 for lawmakers to reach an agreement on the budget and a deficit-limit bill to increase the federal government's current borrowing cap of $14.3 trillion. Lawmakers have until Aug. 2 to raise the federal debt ceiling (Paletta, Wall Street Journal, 7/1).
Early Details of Entitlement Spending Cuts
A group of lawmakers led by Vice President Biden had reached substantial agreements on spending cuts in the two entitlement programs, and those proposals still are on the table, the Times reports.
According to the Times, Democratic and Republican negotiators say the proposed cuts in entitlement spending could target payments to health care providers like hospitals and nursing homes without affecting the quality of care or the structure of the two programs.
More specifically, they are considering proposals that would:
- Gradually eliminate Medicare payments to hospitals for bad debt on uncompensated care;
- Lower Medicare payments to teaching hospitals for physician training, care of sicker patients and specialized services like trauma care and organ transplants;
- Eliminate Medicare "overpayments" to nursing homes;
- Streamline the federal share of some spending in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program; and
- Set new restrictions on states that might want to implement taxes on hospitals and other health care providers to offset their Medicaid expenses.
President Obama has rejected proposals for Medicare vouchers and Medicaid block grants, as well as measures that would roll back the federal health reform law (New York Times, 7/4).
Obama, Republicans Remain Divided on Revenue Plans
In his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, Obama said that "nothing can be off-limits" in the budget debate and reiterated that Republicans need to accept tax increases as part of budget negotiations, the AP/Washington Post reports.
However, Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who delivered the Republican response, renewed the GOP's opposition to the tax-hike proposal. "The president and Democrats in Congress must recognize that their game plan is not working," Coats said, adding, "It's time to acknowledge that more government and higher taxes is not the answer to our problem" (AP/Washington Post, 7/2).
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders, hoping to regain control of the budget debate, invited Obama and Biden to a meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss the issue, The Hill reports. The invitation came shortly after the White House rejected a GOP invitation on Thursday for Obama to meet with Senate Republicans (Bolton, The Hill, 6/30).
According to the Times, hospitals, nursing homes, the American Medical Association and AARP are fighting some of the Democrats' proposals on Medicare (New York Times, 7/4).
On Sunday, Politico examined some of the changes that could be in store for hospitals, drugmakers and public health groups as a result of the debt deal (Nather, Politico, 7/3).