Health Care Groups Remain Critical of President’s Budget
Budget experts call President Bush's budget proposal "one of the most significant efforts in years to rein in federal spending on entitlement programs," but health care providers and patient advocates say the proposed cuts will compromise the nation's health care system, the Washington Post reports.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, "I know it's difficult, but the administration would be doing this country a much greater service by finding ways to lower the underlying costs of Medicare and Medicaid, rather than just lopping off the top."
However, Stuart Butler, a budget expert at the Heritage Foundation, said that the proposed reductions in funds for Medicare and Medicaid are "the only way forward in dealing with a huge unfunded obligation that right now is being left in the lap of our children and grandchildren" (Lee/Montgomery, Washington Post, 2/11).
A provision in the budget proposal that would eliminate annual indexing on income thresholds to require a larger number of higher-income Medicare beneficiaries to pay increased premiums seeks to "raise revenues ahead of a monumental demographic shift," McClatchy/Albany Times Union reports.
According to acting CMS Administrator Leslie Norwalk, the provision would affect an estimated 1.7 million Medicare beneficiaries by 2017.
David Certner, director of legislative policy for AARP, said, "By not indexing, what effectively you are doing is lowering these thresholds so that over time, more and more people will be affected by these higher premiums until eventually everyone is" (Hall, McClatchy/Albany Times Union, 2/10).
"Students are among those who could be hit by the regulatory changes" in the budget proposal that could take effect without congressional approval, AP/Long Island Newsday reports. The Bush administration estimates that the elimination of Medicaid reimbursements to schools for the arrangement of speech and physical therapy for children could save the program $3.6 billion over five years.
Mary Kusler, assistant director of government relations for the American Association of School Administrators, said, "This would transfer the burden onto local school districts and local taxpayers" (Freking, AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/10).