Obama Says Budget Proposal Offers ‘Manageable’
Curbs on Medicare Cost, Social Security Benefits
Most media reports say focus of White House is to
strike a ‘Grand Bargain’ with Republicans who want to change Medicare
into a voucher-style system; Medicare proposal has one revenue
item - higher premiums for couples making more than $170,000 a year
April 11, 2013 - The White House says its budget is
a good start toward controlling government entitlement programs by
offering proposals to curb the growth of Social Security, Medicare and
other federal benefit programs. The budget blueprint, released
Wednesday, includes what the president called "manageable" curbs on
Medicare spending growth, but GOP congressional leaders were dismissive,
while some Democrats and virtually all senior citizen advocacy groups
Los Angeles Times: Obama
Says His Budget Has 'Manageable' Cuts To Entitlement Programs
President Obama argued for "manageable" changes to
Medicare and other social safety net programs as he released his budget
proposal, a plan aimed at staking out the middle ground in the stalled
deficit reduction talks. "If we want to preserve the ironclad guarantee
that Medicare represents, then we're going to have to make some changes.
But they don't have to be drastic ones," Obama said in remarks in the
Rose Garden on Wednesday morning. "…
Obama's remarks intended to draw a contrast with
House Republicans' budget proposal, fashioned by Rep. Paul Ryan of
Wisconsin, which would balance the federal budget in 10 years in part by
transforming Medicare into a voucher-style system and cutting government
spending on Medicaid (Hennessey and Mascaro, 4/10).
As President Barack Obama's new budget indicates,
the two political parties actually have agreed in the last two years to
some significant steps to reduce deficits down the road. One big
question is whether the budget points a way toward restraining the
largest long-term drivers of the deficit, which are government
entitlement programs, particularly for health care. The White House says
its budget blueprint represents a good start down that path by offering
proposals to curb the growth of Social Security, Medicare and other
federal benefits programs (McKinnon and Radnofsky, 4/10).
But barely five months after winning a decisive
reelection victory, Obama proposes nothing on the scale of the $1.2
trillion initiative to extend health coverage to the uninsured that he
pursued after taking office in 2009. Instead, with sharp automatic
spending cuts threatening to slow the economic recovery and another
showdown over the federal debt limit looming this year, the blueprint
establishes a budget deal with Republicans as Obama's top fiscal
priority. For the first time, he is formally proposing to trim scheduled
Social Security benefits — a GOP demand that is anathema to many
Democrats. He is also offering to make meaningful reductions in Medicare
benefits, including higher premiums for couples making more than
$170,000 a year (Montgomery, 4/10).
Key Links on
President Obama’s Proposed 2014 Budget
President Barack Obama took a political gamble
Wednesday by proposing to curb the growth of Social Security and
Medicare, hopeful that the concessions would draw rank-and-file Senate
Republicans into a budget deal that has so far proven elusive. …
Congressional Republican leaders mostly dismissed the package and
described it as a nonstarter because of proposed tax increases. But
other Republicans said it contained measures that could show promise
President Obama's effort to control federal
spending would require the largest cuts from the government's biggest
programs — health care and the military — while preserving or increasing
spending on favored initiatives like early education, manufacturing and
research. … The budget would require $57 billion in higher payments by
Medicare beneficiaries, cut $306 billion in projected Medicare payments
to health care providers and squeeze $19 billion out of Medicaid, the
program for low-income people (Pear and Shanker, 4/10).
Obama's stated goal is otherwise, namely that his
$3.8 trillion budget should lead to the completion of a slow-motion
grand deficit-cutting bargain by offering to save billions from programs
previously sheltered from cuts. Medicare, Social Security and even
military retirement are among them. Perhaps to reassure Democrats
unsettled by this approach, the president said his offer to trim future
benefit increases for tens of millions of people is "less than optimal"
and acceptable only if Republicans simultaneously agree to raise taxes
on the wealthy and some businesses (4/11).
While the White House's budget proposals since the
Affordable Care Act have mostly tinkered around the edges of the health
care system, Wednesday's budget request contains $370 billion in new
Medicare savings. … Some of these proposals aren't new, or explicitly
draw on Republican ideas. Obama had floated Medicare means-testing in
his debt negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner last year, in
hopes of reaching a compromise over the deficit ceiling. And other
provisions are seen as the fulfillment of political promises (Diamond,
President Obama's new budget has opened a debate
over what it means to be a progressive Democrat in an age of austerity
and defines him as a president willing to take on the two pillars of his
party — Medicare and Social Security — created by Democratic presidents
For progressive Democrats in Congress, a fight with
President Obama over the inclusion of cuts to Social Security in his
budget proposal may be just a warm-up for the real looming battle: the
2014 midterms. Defending the entitlement program has long been a pillar
of the Democratic Party, and it’s one that lawmakers say they cannot
ignore (Kaplan, 4/10).
To pay for a series of programs he deemed crucial
to the future and reduce the long-term budget deficit, Mr. Obama also
called for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, putting him at odds
with many other Democrats. They instead see those programs, created by
previous Democratic presidents, as sacrosanct (Lowry and Rich, 4/10).
One person familiar with the dinner conversation,
speaking on condition of anonymity, said the group talked about reaching
a bipartisan agreement on what the president calls a "grand bargain"—a
sweeping budget deal that would shore up Social Security and Medicare
while reining in deficits. It was clear from the dinner that divisions
persist, participants said (Nicholas, Hook and Peterson, 4/10).
This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report
- a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news
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