Trump’s cuts to Medicare hospital payments trigger an outcry
Democrats are accusing President Donald Trump of going back on his campaign promise to protect Medicare after he introduced a 2020 budget that calls for steep cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals.
The budget embodies long-standing Republican ambitions “to make Medicare wither on the vine,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday.
“After exploding the deficit with his GOP tax scam for the rich, President Trump is once again trying to ransack Medicare, Medicaid and the health care of seniors and families across America,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said.
“This budget says ‘promises kept,’” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “Balderdash.”
The administration argues that the budget doesn’t cut Medicare benefits to seniors but makes better use of taxpayers’ dollars and helps reduce Medicare spending by lowering prescription drug costs.
“On Medicare, we are actually putting it on a sounder footing,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told House lawmakers Tuesday at a budget hearing.
As outlined in White House documents, the budget calls for $845 billion in total, or gross, spending reductions to Medicare over 10 years, mainly by cutting future payments to hospitals and other service providers.
However, that eye-popping figure appears to involve some budgetary legerdemain. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found actual savings of $515 billion or $575 billion, depending on how those savings are calculated.
Medicare now costs about $650 billion a year, and that’s expected to rise sharply as the baby boom generation goes into retirement. Administration officials say their proposals would keep spending increases more manageable.
“He’s not cutting Medicare in this budget,” asserted acting White House budget director Russell Vought. “What we are doing is putting forward reforms that lower drug prices, [and] because Medicare pays a very large share of drug prices in this country, it has the impact of finding savings.
Medicare cuts have little public support and Trump’s package appears to have slim chances in a divided Congress.