GOP Leaders Back Off From Proposed Changes to Medicare, Medicaid

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House Republicans are opting for less controversial spending cuts, such as cutting federal health reform law funding, over pursuing broad changes to Medicaid and Medicare included in House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) House-passed fiscal year 2013 budget proposal, the AP/Washington Times reports (Taylor, AP/Washington Times, 4/24).

Background on Ryan's Plan

Ryan's budget plan -- which the House passed in March and approved again in a procedural move earlier this month -- would transform Medicare from a fee-for-service program to one in which beneficiaries could either purchase coverage on the private market or maintain traditional Medicare coverage.

The proposal also would reduce Medicaid spending and convert the program to a block-grant system, in which states would receive a fixed amount (California Healthline, 4/18).

Republicans Shifting Strategy

Although Republicans in the last month have indicated strong support for Ryan's plan, GOP leaders in follow-up legislation appear to be taking a different strategy.

Attempts to pass the full Ryan budget or any binding legislation are unlikely to advance with President Obama in office and a Democrat-controlled Senate, according to the AP/Times. Republican leaders -- including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) -- appear to have acknowledged that and have decided to avoid casting numerous politically tough votes on issues such as Medicare.

Instead, Republicans will push for other health-related cost-cutting proposals, such as reducing funding to the federal health reform law and limiting damages in medical malpractice cases.

The AP/Times notes that the GOP still is pursuing more "controversial" ideas, such as a proposal to ease Medicaid "maintenance of effort" regulations that would allow states to eliminate hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries from the program (AP/Washington Times, 4/24).

House Appropriators Release Spending Bills

In related news, the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released 12 spending bills, including the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill (Wasson, "On the Money," The Hill, 4/24)

 The Labor-HHS-Education budget would be capped at $150 billion, $6.3 billion less than the programs received during this fiscal year. The bulk of those cuts likely will come from the health reform law, according to National Journal. The committee on Wednesday will vote on the proposed appropriations bills (O'Donnell, National Journal, 4/24).

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to vote on recommended health cuts.

Each House committee is required to send the Budget Committee a list of potential spending cuts under its jurisdiction. The Energy and Commerce Committee's suggestions include "deep cuts" to Medicaid and the health reform law, according to "Healthwatch" (Baker/Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/24).

Paul HIllery
...The Energy and Commerce Committee's suggestions include "deep cuts" to Medicaid and the health reform law... Once again the 1% are trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, the sick, the children, and the elderly. They forget/ignore that higher taxes on the 1% actually drive economic growth...tax cuts do not!

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