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GOP Budget Plan Slashes Health Care Spending

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GOP Budget Plan Slashes Health Care Spending

Health

GOP Budget Plan Slashes Health Care Spending

GOP Budget Plan Slashes Health Care Spending

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The budget blueprint outlined by Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan gets a significant share of its savings by cutting spending on health care — specifically the Medicare program for the elderly and the Medicaid program for the poor. None of the ways it proposes to reduce spending on those programs is new.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

While none of those savings proposals are new, NPR's Julie Rovner reports that the Republican move is still highly controversial.

JULIE ROVNER: Ryan says his plan for Medicare, which would involve a fundamental privatization of the heretofore government-run program, would simply make the program more efficient and hence less expensive.

PAUL RYAN: We want to harness the power of patient choice, of competition, on behalf senior citizens, future seniors in Medicare.

ROVNER: The result, says Nichols...

LEN NICHOLS: It shifts all the risks of continued cost growth onto the individual.

ROVNER: Which may not be a bad thing for those who can afford it, he says. Nichols says he's more worried about whether seniors with lower incomes are in poorer health will be able to find adequate health coverage in the private insurance market.

NICHOLS: For the frail elderly, I'm not so sure we have actually that many plans who are ready and able to take them at a fixed price and be comfortable with it.

ROVNER: But Edwin Park of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says there are limits to being able to do more with less.

EDWIN PARK: The idea that states could use some of the greater flexibility it would gain under a block to compensate for cuts of this magnitude are just entirely unrealistic.

ROVNER: Indeed, Park says, by the year 2021, Medicaid spending would be reduced by as much as a third under the proposal. He says that would leave governors little leeway.

PARK: They would have no choice but to use that flexibility to really cut eligibility benefits, which would add to the ranks of the uninsured or deny people access to needed care and really cut provider reimbursement rates.

ROVNER: Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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