New GOP Budget: Hands Off Medicare, But Potentially Worse

The Senate may have defeated a House GOP budget that would have turned Medicare into a private voucher-based programs, but Republicans haven’t given up.

But Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has proposed a budget that leaves Medicare alone, but is potentially worse, according to an independent analysis.

Senators on Wednesday voted down the budget blueprint first offered by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), with a handful of Republicans joining Democrats to block further consideration of the bill, which included the Medicare overhaul.

 

 

Under political pressure by President Obama and other Democrats, public opinion turned against the Ryan Medicare plan, evidenced most notably by a Democrat winning a special House election Tuesday in which the Ryan plan was a key issue.

Toomey, the conservative freshman, however, has put forward his own spending plan.

Toomey touted his budget proposal Wednesday on the Senate floor in a speech before he voted for the Ryan plan.

“At first blush, the Toomey plan may seem more moderate than the Ryan budget, which the Senate also will likely consider this week,” says the analysis by James Horney, vice president for federal fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an independent, left-leaning Washington think tank. “That’s because the Toomey plan does not include Chairman Ryan’s controversial proposal to replace guaranteed Medicare benefits with vouchers that would cover part of the cost of purchasing private health insurance — a provision that would raise total health care spending attributable to Medicare beneficiaries and more than double out-of-pocket costs for a typical 65-year-old beneficiary in 2022. (Neither plan proposes savings in Social Security.)

“But, in several ways, the Toomey budget is more radical than the Ryan plan,” Horney adds. “While it essentially mirrors the Ryan plan in proposing deep cuts in nondefense discretionary programs, it proposes much deeper cuts in entitlement programs other than Medicare — and relies on a rosy economic scenario and fanciful assumptions about tax collections — to claim it produces modest surpluses in 2020 and 2021 instead of the approximately $400 billion deficits in each of those years under the Ryan plan.”

Although the Toomey plan doesn’t include Ryan’s controversial Medicare overhaul, it would turn Medicaid into a block grant and cut federal funding for the program by half by 2021, Horney says.

It also would cut nearly $900 billion from social safety net programs, which include programs such as SNAP (food stamps), Supplemental Security Income, and unemployment insurance.

“By 2021, funding for this category would shrink by more than one-fifth,” Horney says. “Toomey’s cuts in this category are more than twice as large as the $380 billion cut over ten years in the Ryan plan.”

 

Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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