Big changes proposed to Medicare, Medicaid
GOP budget targets benefits
WASHINGTON – House Republicans’ 2012 federal budget proposal will include significant changes to Medicare, shift control of Medicaid to the states and aim to chop more than $4 trillion from the deficit over the next decade, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Sunday.
Ryan’s broad overview of the plan, which is to be announced on Tuesday, included a combination of entitlement changes and spending cuts that amount to a significantly different approach to deficit and debt reduction than that advocated by President Barack Obama.
Obama’s plan, proposed in February, would cut $1.1 trillion from the deficit over 10 years through a combination of increased revenues and targeted budget cuts. He did not suggest structural changes to the nation’s social safety-net programs – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Republicans said that plan ignored the primary drivers of the escalating debt and deficits, as well as the solutions proposed by a commission Obama appointed to draft a deficit-reduction plan.
In contrast, the Republican budget would change entitlement programs as recommended by the commission.
The proposal would rework Medicare by offering seniors a choice of private plans and restructure Medicaid funding into block grants distributed to the states, Ryan said, while apparently leaving Social Security unchanged. The changes would not affect current recipients of Medicare, he said.
The Wisconsin Republican declined to offer savings estimates, but said the plan would go further than the commission’s recommendations, which proposed nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020.
“We believe in exceeding the goals put out by the president’s debt commission,” he said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
The commission’s plan was rejected both by Democrats, who said it cut too much, and some Republicans, who would not sign on to its call to increase government revenues.
Ryan said the House Republican plan would call for “pro-growth tax reform,” although he was not specific. He indicated the plan included lower tax rates.
The proposal comes as House Republicans are already battling the Democrat-led Senate over federal spending levels. Having failed to pass a 2011 budget while Democrats were in control of both chambers, lawmakers now are locked in a fight over how to fund the government for the current fiscal year. Federal budget authority expires on Friday, leaving the threat of government shutdown looming over discussions.