House GOP Finds $30B in New Cuts; Reps. Seek ‘Reset’ on Medicare Talks
On Wednesday, House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) unveiled a broad outline of $30 billion in new federal spending cuts from current levels for fiscal year 2012, which includes $18.2 billion in cuts to health, labor and education programs, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, the proposed allocations -- based on the GOP's House-approved FY 2012 budget resolution (H Con Res 34) -- allow Rogers' committee to begin developing specific spending measures for the new fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1 (Hulse, New York Times, 5/11).
The package of new spending cuts comes less than a month after President Obama signed a FY 2011 continuing resolution measure (HR 1473), which Democrats and Republicans passed just hours before the federal government would have been forced to shut down. The compromise plan cut $38 billion in discretionary and mandatory spending from current levels through September and affected a range of federal programs, including health care and provisions in the federal health reform law. More than half of the total spending cuts in that plan affect health, labor and education programs (California Healthline, 4/15).
Under Rogers' new spending reductions blueprint, proposed appropriations for the nation's health, labor and education programs -- top priorities for the congressional Democrats and the Obama administration -- are estimated at more than $41 billion less than the administration's budget recommendation for FY 2012, Politico reports (Rogers, Politico, 5/11).
Although Rogers' blueprint only offers broad spending targets for various policy areas, details of the specific allocations are expected to be available when separate appropriations subcommittees begin developing individual bills based on those targets, the Wall Street Journal reports (Boles, Wall Street Journal, 5/11). On Friday, lawmakers on two subcommittees are scheduled to begin work on the bills (Taylor, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/11).
According to Politico, Rogers' goal is to complete nine spending bills before the August congressional recess. However, floor debates on three bills expected to have the most significant cuts -- which includes the health, education and labor appropriations bill -- would be delayed until after Labor Day (Politico, 5/11).
GOP Medicaid Overhaul Could Have Significant Effect on Seniors
The proposal in the GOP's House-approved FY 2012 budget resolution to transform the Medicaid program into a block grant program could have a more direct effect on older beneficiaries than the bill's plan to overhaul Medicare, according to some policy experts, the Times reports (Steinhauer, New York Times, 5/10).
Under the Medicaid proposal, states would receive fixed annual block grants of $11,000 per beneficiary to use as they choose. Meanwhile, the budget measure would transform Medicare into a voucher program, defund the health reform law and cut federal spending by $6 trillion over a decade (California Healthline, 5/11).
Republicans have promised that under the Medicare proposal, beneficiaries ages 55 or older will not see any changes to their benefits. However, under the Medicaid proposal, the block grants beginning in 2013 are designed to increase annually at the rate of inflation -- which typically is below the rate of health care inflation -- with adjustments for population growth, according to the Times. As a result, some states that are unable to afford the program's costs could decide to scale back coverage, and policy experts say a likely first target to cut Medicaid spending would be for nursing home care programs that serve seniors and people with disabilities.
Concerns about the House budget measure's effect on Medicaid come as a new analysis found that the measure would cause as many as 44 million people to lose Medicaid coverage (New York Times, 5/10).
House GOP Freshmen Seek 'Reset' Button on Medicare Issue
On Wednesday, nearly a dozen first-year House Republican lawmakers criticized Democrats for using the House GOP proposal to overhaul Medicare as a political tool to frighten older voters about the future of the program, the Washington Post's "2chambers" reports (Sonmez, "2chambers," Washington Post, 5/11).
The group, led by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said the proposal -- in the House GOP's House-approved FY 2012 budget resolution -- is "an outline" and "framework" for the Republican plan on reforming and preserving the program.
During a news conference convened by the group, Kinzinger said a letter signed by 42 GOP freshman lawmakers was sent to the White House on Tuesday, in which they called on President Obama "to hit the reset button" on the issue (Ethridge, CQ Today, 5/11).
"When we're talking about the reset, it's 'let's have the conversation,'" he said (Brady/Stanton, Roll Call, 5/12). Referring to Democrats, Kinzinger said, "When you immediately turn to saying, 'Good, this is our 2012 (election) issue,' you've paralyzed that discussion [to reform Medicare] at least until 2013" (CQ Today, 5/11).
Kinzinger acknowledged that both Republicans and Democrats have used the issue of Medicare to "pla[y] hardball" on their Medicare plan, which Republicans were forced to defend in recent weeks during meetings with concerned and angry constituents. "This is a both-sides issue," he said, "To say that one side is blameless in trying to use issues to win votes is just dishonest" (DoBias, National Journal, 5/11).
According to Roll Call, House Republicans are scheduled to adjourn for another weeklong recess on Friday, raising the prospect that they will once again face constituents' questions on the Medicare overhaul plan (Roll Call, 5/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.