Senate Republicans Debate $10B in Proposed Spending Reductions for Medicaid Program
A "fight ... is emerging" among Senate Finance Committee Republicans over the "potential for cutting the growth of Medicare to reduce proposed cuts" of as much as $10 billion to Medicaid over the next five years as part of the fiscal year 2006 budget resolution, CQ Today reports. The committee must submit a final proposal by Sept. 16.
Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) supports a proposal that would reduce only Medicaid spending, but Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) "have been working on ways to reduce the Medicaid cuts," such as reductions in Medicare spending, according to CQ Today.
Smith spokesperson Demetrios Karoutsos said, "We certainly think there is room to reduce Medicare," adding, "Smith's goal throughout this entire process is to find ways that don't impact beneficiaries."
Snowe spokesperson Antonia Ferrier said, "Taking $10 billion from Medicaid would be a wrong-headed approach." She added, "There are a lot of other things that we are open to exploring; that could very well be savings from Medicare as well."
Meanwhile, Senate Budget Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) this week in a statement said that lawmakers should seek to reduce the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit "to its original cost estimate," a move that "could help meet savings targets" included in the FY 2006 budget resolution, CQ Today reports. According to Gregg, the Congressional Budget Office currently estimates the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit at $597 billion over 10 years, $45 billion more than the previous estimate.
He said, "With American taxpayers and their children already burdened with almost $30 trillion in unfunded liability for the Medicare program, Congress and the administration have an obligation to limit the drug benefit to its original size." The Medicare prescription drug benefit is "unaffordable as it is currently structured," Gregg added.
However, a spokesperson for Grassley said that the senator will not support a reduction in the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit in the first year.
The spokesperson said, "Our focus is on getting the program up and running. We want to see what the first year's experience with the program brings and then we'll go from there." She added, "The speculation on costs are merely projections at this point. Far more valuable will be an analysis of the actual program after it has actually been implemented and sufficient experience is behind us to do an effective evaluation."
President Bush in February said he would veto legislation that would limit the Medicare prescription drug benefit (Dennis, CQ Today, 8/24).