House Leaders Support New Medicaid Cuts To Offset Katrina Costs
Republican leaders in Congress are preparing a package of cuts to Medicaid and other social programs to compensate for expenses related to Hurricane Katrina and to address concerns from some conservatives about the increasing budget deficit, the Boston Globe reports. With Katrina-related spending at $62 billion and predictions of total costs going as high as $200 billion, House leaders said they are aiming to cut as much as $40 billion from various programs, in addition to the $35 billion in cuts called for under the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation process (Klein, Boston Globe, 10/1).
The budget reconciliation cuts called for $10 billion in Medicaid spending reductions over five years (California Healthline, 9/29). House leaders said they could find additional savings from Medicaid by limiting eligibility to reduce the number of beneficiaries. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) asked all committee chairs to look for possible savings in their areas of oversight. Frist and other Senate leaders on Wednesday sent a letter to President Bush asking for a list of potential cuts.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, "This is an opportunity for the Republican Party to reconnect itself with the country on an issue that matters, the issue of not borrowing money to solve every problem that happens on our watch." Graham added, "Getting the list is not the problem. Getting the list enacted is the problem." Senate budget negotiations are expected to resume in mid-October, and Republican leaders' goal is to finish before Thanksgiving.
Democrats are "gearing up for a battle," particularly to oppose any additional Medicaid cuts, the Globe reports. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said additional Medicaid cuts would be "unconscionable." Kerry said, "A cut to Medicaid pushes more people into poverty. It takes more kids off of health care."
In addition, governors from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi each have identified Medicaid "as perhaps the most important program the federal government funds in their region" (Boston Globe, 10/1).