Moving to end Medicaid as an entitlement program, House Republicans Tuesday unveiled their long-awaited plan to cut $182 billion over seven years from the federal-state health program for 36 million indigent Americans.
The proposal would replace Medicaid with direct federal block grants to the states, giving them unprecedented authority to dictate who is eligible and what health coverage they will receive.
Such a restructured program would have a capped dollar amount for the first time.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., called the proposal “absolutely a historic event.”
Indeed, on a day when the Senate approved a sweeping welfare reform bill, the two actions marked another milestone in the unrelenting march by the Republican-controlled Congress to dismantle the social programs of the Great Society.
But like so much of the GOP’s legislative agenda, the Medicaid proposal triggered an outpouring of strong reactions. Believers praised it as the salvation of a troubled government program that is creating huge federal and state budget deficits; critics predicted that the transformation would inflict new suffering upon the poor and handicapped.
“Medicaid is broken and we all know it,” said Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr., R-Va., chairman of the House Commerce Committee. He said the proposal would end what is “a complex, bureaucratic and uncontrolled entitlement, riddled with waste and inefficiency.”
But liberal citizens groups and some Democrats warned that the GOP approach could add 8 million or more indigent Americans to the ever-increasing number of those without health insurance, estimated at 41 million people.