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Medicare News

Medicare a Hot Button as Budget Proposals from Political Parties Smash Head-On

GOP’S Ryan presents ‘austere budget proposal that looks a lot like one they approved last year that Democrats quickly dismissed. Republicans revived plans to overhaul Medicare, slash the social safety net for the poor and bolster defense — all while lowering corporate and individual tax rates to no more than 25%’

March 13, 2013 – The political parties are running out their budget proposals and the general consensus is they are “miles apart.” The House GOP plan, which was unveiled yesterday, would repeal the health law's subsidized insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion and turn Medicare into a premium-support system. The Senate Democrats' plan, scheduled for release today, would lower domestic spending in part by saving $275 billion through changes to Medicare and Medicaid that are smaller than those proposed by Republicans.

Below is a summary of coverage in key media:

The New York Times: Two Parties' Budgets Show Big Rift As GOP Renews 2012 Proposals
Senate Democrats and House Republicans on Tuesday outlined vastly divergent approaches to shoring up the government’s finances, a reminder of how far apart they remain on fiscal policy even as both sides insist publicly that a bipartisan compromise is possible. … The Republican plan sets out to balance the budget in a decade and would cut spending by $4.6 trillion through 2023, in large part by rolling back many of Mr. Obama's signature legislative accomplishments. It would repeal the health care overhaul of 2009, eliminate the subsidized insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion that make up the core of the law, and turn Medicare into a system of private insurance plans financed by federal vouchers (Peters and Weisman, 3/12).


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Today's Headlines


Los Angeles Times: Two Sides Still Far Apart In Budget Proposals
Just before Obama arrived for the latest installment of his Capitol Hill charm offensive, House Republicans, led by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, unveiled an austere budget proposal that looks a lot like one they approved last year that Democrats quickly dismissed. Republicans revived plans to overhaul Medicare, slash the social safety net for the poor and bolster defense — all while lowering corporate and individual tax rates to no more than 25%. … Senate Democrats, meanwhile, sitting down to lunch with the president, offered a counterproposal that would raise nearly $2 trillion toward deficit reduction, with equal parts coming from taxes and spending cuts. But their plan does not balance the budget for the foreseeable future (Mascaro and Memoli, 3/12).

Politico: Budget Plans Or Works Of Fiction
Democrats and Republicans have put together their dream budgets — political documents that are more like wish lists than usable road maps for the future of government spending. Both have no chance of becoming law, but they do help explain the impasse over spending and debt in Washington (Nather, 3/12).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Budget Establishes Contrast With Democrats
Republican budget standard-bearer Paul Ryan on Tuesday offered his party's most provocative fiscal framework in years, calling for Medicare and Medicaid overhauls and new limits on defense spending not previously endorsed by party leaders. The White House criticized Mr. Ryan's budget proposal Tuesday, calling it the "wrong course" to reduce the deficit. The House Republican plan would burden the middle class by slashing spending without raising taxes on upper-income households, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a written statement (Paletta, 3/12).

Politico: Paul Ryan Budget Ax Hits Health Programs Hard
The House Republican budget released Tuesday would wring about 70 percent of its spending cuts from health programs — including defunding Obamacare — to bring the budget into balance a decade from now. Even though the federal health care law has survived the gauntlet of the Supreme Court and the presidential election since Rep. Paul Ryan released his last budget one year ago, the Wisconsin lawmaker again calls for defunding it. In fact, defunding the Affordable Care Act accounts for close to half, or about $1.84 trillion, of his proposed deficit reduction. His plan calls for balancing the budget in 2023 (Norman, 3/13).

The Washington Post: Ryan Sets Stage For A Budget Duel, Targets Health-Care Law
On Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) rolled out a 10-year spending plan that would revive the most controversial prescriptions from last year's GOP budget, including a partial privatization of Medicare and a repeal of the health-care law that is Obama's signature policy achievement. Meanwhile, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) briefed her colleagues on a competing plan, to be released Wednesday, that would raise taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade and spend nearly $100 billion on a new jobs package — ideas Republicans have firmly rejected (Montgomery, 3/12).

NPR: Ryan Budget Proposal Echoes Obamacare While Rejecting It
Health policy watchers might have been amused reading the latest blueprint for the federal budget, out today. That's because once again House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proposes a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans refer to as "Obamacare." But this time, the proposal describes the changes it envisions to the Medicare program in very Obamacare-like terms (Rovner, 3/12).

Medscape: House GOP Budget Would Repeal ACA, Voucherize Medicare
In a replay of the 2012 presidential campaign, House Republicans today released a proposed budget for fiscal 2014 that would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), partially privatize Medicare, block-grant Medicaid, and when all is said and done, reduce the federal deficit by $4.6 trillion over 10 years, leading to a balanced budget in 2023. Congress has "to fix our entitlements and to grow our economy" to avoid a debt crisis, said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who chairs the House budget committee, in an introduction to the document (Lowes, 3/12).

The Associated Press: House Republicans Again Plan To Repeal Health Care, Cut Medicaid
House Republicans unveiled their latest budget outline on Tuesday, sticking to their plans to try to repeal so-called Obamacare, cut domestic programs ranging from Medicaid to college grants and require future Medicare patients to bear more of the program's cost. The GOP plan came as President Barack Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Democrats on the budget and a broad range of other proposals that are part of his second-term agenda. The president has launched a new outreach to rank-and-file Republicans, and his Hill visit is one of several planned with lawmakers of both parties this week (3/12).

National Journal: House Republican Budget Offers More Of The Same
By unveiling a budget blueprint that would erase the deficit in just 10 years, House Republicans sought on Tuesday to make that goal the gold standard and bare minimum for all future budget battles between the two parties…Ryan would turn Medicare into a fixed-cost program for people 54 and younger, beginning in 2024, by giving them a set amount of money to purchase their own health care or a traditional Medicare plan on the private market…His budget turns Medicaid and food-stamp funding over to the states—effectively transforming these programs from open-ended entitlements and forms of assistance for anyone in need into programs with set budgets (Cook, 3/12).

MinnPost: GOP Budget Cuts Spending, Changes Medicare And Kicks Off Fresh Budget Battles
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan introduced the House GOP budget plan on Tuesday, kicking off a new round of budget battles on Capitol Hill. Ryan’s budget balances in 10 years, thanks to both $4.6 trillion in spending cuts (out of $46 trillion-worth of spending over 10-year budget, he said) and by accepting the new revenue that came from January's fiscal cliff deal (Henry, 3/12).

Politico: At Heart Of Paul Ryan Budget: Repealing Obamacare
This week's dueling budget releases show that the fight over health care reform and entitlements is far from over — and the parties are still miles apart on how to move forward with either plan. But what is clear is that implementation of the health law is moving forward, Medicaid won't be converted into a "block grant" anytime soon and there is no politically easy answer for Medicare (Haberkorn and Norman, 3/13).

CNN Money: Republicans Revive Medicare Subsidy Plan
Ryan's proposal, unveiled Tuesday, is essentially the same as others the House Budget Committee chair has proposed in previous years. This plan formed the heart of the Republicans' entitlement reform platform during last year's election, when Ryan ran as the GOP vice presidential candidate. Ryan argues that the Republican Medicare proposal keeps costs under control through competition and more choices for patients. President Obama and other Democrats deride it as a voucher program that will leave seniors with higher health care costs (Luhby, 3/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Says He Won't 'Chase A Balanced Budget Just For The Sake Of Balance'
President Barack Obama is criticizing a proposed House Republican budget, saying it would turn Medicare into a voucher-like program, cut deeply into programs such as Medicaid and increase tax payments by the middle class in order to achieve promised lower tax rates. Asked in an ABC World News interview Tuesday whether he will propose a budget that balances in 10 years, Obama said he would not (3/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats' Budget Mixes Tax Increases, Spending Cuts
Senate Democrats will propose raising $975 billion in new taxes over the next decade in the budget they will release this week, setting up a sharp contrast with a House Republican plan to balance the budget over 10 years without new tax increases. … Democrats would lower domestic spending in part by saving $275 billion through changes to federal health-care programs that are smaller in scale than Republicans have proposed for Medicare and Medicaid (Peterson, 3/12).

And regarding the continuing resolution -

The Hill: Harkin: White House Backed Off Push For More Healthcare Funding
The Obama administration decided it could live without extra money it had requested to help implement its signature healthcare law, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Tuesday. Senate Democrats released a bill Tuesday to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. The proposal does not include an extra $1 billion the White House had requested for the healthcare implementation effort (Baker, 3/12).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations.


Some of this information is reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.


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