New Debt Reduction Proposal Targets Medicaid, Health Insurance Subsidies

by Rebecca Farley on October 7, 2011

Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT)

House Appropriations Committee member Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) has proposed a new idea for how the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction can reach its $1.2 trillion savings goal: by eliminating the health reform law’s Medicaid expansion and its subsidies to help low-income consumers purchase health insurance.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid will expand to cover all individuals under 133% of poverty, including childless adults, who in many states are currently ineligible for the program. The ACA will also provide subsidies on a sliding scale for individuals and families up to 400% of poverty to purchase private insurance in the newly established state-based health insurance exchanges.

In a statement this week, Rehberg suggested that eliminating these two provisions of the ACA would likely be sufficient to meet the committee’s target savings goal, and indicated that he would soon introduce legislation outlining his proposal in more detail. However, the proposal is almost certainly dead on arrival in the Joint Select Committee, where the Democrats on the panel are sure to object to undermining the ACA by cutting assistance for low-income individuals.

Representative Rehberg does not sit on the Joint Select Committee, but as Chair of the influential subcommittee that handles funding for healthcare programs, he will play a central role in shepherding any eventual agreement through the Appropriations Committee. His statement on Medicaid is only the most recent in a series of attacks on the program this year, from Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal to convert Medicaid into a block grant to President Obama’s proposal to reduce federal Medicaid matching rates.

A new fact sheet from the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) provides talking points for advocates outlining the major reasons why lawmakers should not cut Medicaid. The fact sheet notes that cutting Medicaid shifts costs to states and people in need and undermines an essential component of health care reform.

The National Council continues fighting proposed cuts to Medicaid. Most recently, as part of the Partnership for Medicaid, we signed on to an advertisement that ran in the Capitol Hill publication CQ Today late last month urging lawmakers to preserve Medicaid in the debt negotiations. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to email your Members of Congress today and ask them to tell the supercommittee not to cut Medicaid or behavioral health funding. Stay tuned to the  National Council’s Public Policy Update and to learn about additional opportunities to get involved, including an upcoming national call-in day on Oct. 13-14 and more.


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