Outcry Over Trump's Cuts To Medicare Hospital Payments

Faith Castro
March 14, 2019

President Donald Trump's 2020 budget calls for $2.7 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. Now he's being criticized for steep Medicare payment cuts to hospitals proposed in his new budget. The analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) finds that the vast majority of the Medicare cuts in Trump's budget, released on Monday, are to payments to hospitals and doctors, not cuts to benefits for seniors on the program. The cost-saving covers some of the mandatory programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and programs on federal health care.

Tricia Neuman of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said the Medicare cuts in this year's budget are larger than what Trump proposed last year.

Tax cuts were a priority for the Trump White House and congressional Republicans in recent years, rather than deficit reduction.

Neal, who has pledged to use his position has House Ways and Means chairman to protect Medicare, the federal health insurance program largely for people ages 65 and over, added that reaffirmed his commitment to "defending Americans' access to health care".

The plan to winnow funding away from Medicare and Medicaid contradicts campaign promises Trump made in 2016.

But his plan to repeal and replace "Obamacare" involved major Medicaid cuts. In the end it couldn't pass a Republican-controlled Congress.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi opened a hearing on the Republican president's proposal with a broad attack on what he said was the growing, misguided view that US debt and deficits do not matter.

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The latest 2020 budget proposal from Trump also outlines a substantial funding increase for the FDA - although commentators are already saying that the plan faces nearly certain rejection from Democrats controlling the US House of Representatives. Because the program is so big, even a small reduction in percent terms can add up to hundreds of billions of dollars over time.

However, Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, said "neither Republicans nor Democrats seem to be concerned about debt and deficits, as the president's plan also pushes balanced budgets further into the future".

Among the budget's targets are federal payments to reimburse hospitals for uncompensated care, fees for services provided in outpatient departments, and federal financing for graduate medical education.

"The proposals generally target hospitals and other health care providers", Neuman said.

A statement from AARP reflected a mix of praise and concern.

The budget proposal "practices the Robin Hood principle in reverse", said Senator Bernie Sanders, budget panel member and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

Also, as expected, the president intends to cut $220 billion in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP or, more commonly, as food stamps), $21 billion in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, $207 billion in the student loan program and seeks up to a 31-percent reduction in the Environmental Protection Agency.

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