A new Republican budget is expected in March, 2015 and already, it’s raising many questions, both within and outside of the party. As is typical, there is no shortage of politics as usual, but what do these Medicaid and Medicare changes, should they be put into place, mean for seniors and the elderly?
Saving Federal Dollars
The goal of the latest budget is to turn over more responsibility to the states for not only the Medicaid and Medicare programs, but the food stamp program as well. Republicans are wanting to treat the programs as a more traditional block grant. This means instead of a percentage of the programs’ costs given to each state, it would instead be a lump sum payment. States currently cover the rest of the financial costs and with the new foundation, that won’t change. Senate Budget Committee Member Lindsey Graham explained, “It’s just a better way to give flexibility on the ground, where people are at. The more you manage something far away, the more costly and less efficient it becomes.”
On average, states cover around 56% of the costs. With the new formula, it’s anticipated states will shoulder even more costs. Democrats have been opposed to these types of scenarios for years and it’s expected they will again oppose the latest budget. Already, Senator Bernie Sanders, who is the top member of the Democrat caucus on the Senate Budget Committee has voiced his party’s position, “I will do everything in my power to make sure we pass a budget that does not harm the most vulnerable Americans.
Meanwhile, Washington is also working to hammer out what changes, if any, will be made to the Medicare program. With the new fiscal year beginning in October, there are a lot of challenges that must be overcome between then and now. Republicans say they’re not considering any major overhauls to Social Security; however, the federal health insurance program for the elderly will likely undergo a few changes. Most likely, those efforts will be similar to the ones presented in the past. Senator Mike Crapo says he feels they will be similar to what the Obama Administration recommended, but with a few Republican touches associated with the new healthcare laws.
Some Dems are concerned that it will be too close to what former House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan introduced in the past; one that’s been controversial and contentious. Ryan has called for overhauling Medicare to allow Americans who turn 65 in the future to choose between private insurance plans with government support for premiums or staying in traditional Medicare, though their costs could rise. The Dems are vehemently against this plan and say it’s little more than a way to introduce a “premium support.” Some Republican lawmakers view the proposal as a political liability without any shot of being signed into law during the final two years of the Obama Administration.
If you’d like to learn more about qualifying for Medicaid or to find out more about Social Security and Medicare, contact our offices today.