Pelosi again rejects proposal to change Medicare

House Democratic leader, in television interview discussing scheduled budget cuts and the national economy, says she hasn't seen evidence that raising the Medicare eligibility age will save money. Republican Rep. Cantor, on a different Sunday morning program, says the government has to find a way to cut spending.

Politico: Pelosi Opposes Changes To Medicare Program
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi remains opposed to raising the eligibility age for Medicare or cutting benefits for recipients, effectively ruling out any House Democratic leadership support for changes to the popular entitlement program. ... "Don't you think  ... you ought to see if raising the age really does save money?" the California Democrat said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday." "Those people are not going to evaporate from the face of the Earth for two years. They're going to have medical needs, and they're going to have to be attended to." "I do think we should subject every federal dollar that is spent to the harshest scrutiny," Pelosi added. "I do think the challenge in Medicare is not Medicare, the problem is rising health care costs in general" (Bresnahan, 2/10). 

Politico: Cantor: Obama's Only Answer To Sequestration Is Tax Increases
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) slammed President Barack Obama's call for tax increases to delay tens of billions of dollars of spending cuts under sequestration, which kicks in on March 1. "The problem is every time you turn around, the answer is to raise taxes," Cantor said during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press." "He just got his tax hike on the wealthy. And you can't in this town every three months raise taxes. Again, every time, that's his response" (Bresnahan, 2/10).

NBCNews: Cantor Urges Obama To Work With GOP On 'Smarter Cuts'
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor urged Congress and President Barack Obama to agree on "smarter cuts" instead of the $85 billion in spending reductions that are set to begin March 1. On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, the Virginia Republican said the $85 billion in spending reductions in the current fiscal year, called "the sequester" and mandated by the Budget Control Act which Obama signed into law in 2011, are "not the best way to go about trying to control spending." Cantor told NBC's David Gregory that House Republicans have proposed alternatives – such as reducing the value of federal employee pension benefits – that would help avert the automatic spending cuts (Curry, 2/10). 

The Hill: Pelosi: 'Almost A False Argument' To Say US Has Spending Problem
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the looming sequestration is "a bad idea all around" and called for a balance of spending cuts and closing tax loopholes in order to avoid it. ... The Democratic House leader said she backed a "big, bold proposal," to curb long-term spending, and, short of that, a plan that ended subsidies for large oil companies and eliminated loopholes in the tax code. ... "Nothing brings more moned to the Treasury of the United States than investment in education of the American people, so we have to recognize that," she said. "Cuts in education, scientific research and the rest are harmful and they
are what are affected by the sequestration" (Joseph, 2/10). 

USA Today: Obama's State Of The Union: Jobs
Obama will also likely use the (Tuesday State of the Union) speech to put political pressure on Republicans over the budget. In his Saturday radio address, Obama said current GOP plans to avoid the sequester focus on cuts that affect mainly "seniors and middle-class families. They would rather ask more from the vast majority of Americans and put our recovery at risk than close even a single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy." Republicans said Obama got higher taxes -- in the form of higher income tax rates -- as part of the fiscal cliff deal in early January; now the emphasis should be on spending cuts (Jackson, 2/10).

The Hill: Obama: Sequester Would Deal 'Huge Blow To Middle-Class Families'
The president devoted a significant amount of his (weekly Saturday) address to outlining the real-world consequences that would result if the sequester was implemented. On Friday, top administrative aides warned the cuts would hamper law enforcement, hurt federal education programs, withhold mental health services and furlough thousands of workers. "If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or clean energy are likely to be laid off," Obama said. "Firefighters and food inspectors could also find themselves out of work – leaving our communities vulnerable. Programs like Head Start would be cut, and lifesaving research into diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's could be scaled back" (Sink, 2/9). 

Los Angeles Times: Automatic Budget Cuts Are Almost Certain
Because of limits on cuts to Medicare and exemptions for Social Security and other benefits, non-defense programs would face less of a spending cut -; about 4.6% overall this year compared with 7.9% for the Pentagon. But on top of other reductions the last two years, the cuts would have a deep impact, according to analysts, advocacy groups and government workers. ... The White House said the cuts would reduce loan guarantees to small businesses, result in fewer food safety inspections, and leave hundreds of thousands of mentally ill adults and children untreated (Puzzanghera and Simon, 2/9). 

Meanwhile, a prominent Democrat says he has no intention of renewing his efforts to bridge a bipartisan effort on revamping Medicare.

The Hill: Wyden Says He Plans No Medicare Reform Sequel With Paul Ryan
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has no plans to partner with Rep. Paul Ryan on a new Medicare reform bill, the senator has told The Hill. The two lawmakers made waves in 2011 with a bipartisan proposal that infuriated Democrats and later inspired Mitt Romney's healthcare plan. But Wyden said there will not be an encore anytime soon, especially as House Republicans move to balance the federal budget within 10 years. "They have moved even further in terms of budget changes that would affect Medicare," Wyden, a frequent bipartisan collaborator, told The Hill this week. "I think it's going to be very hard to get Democratic support for that budget generally" (Viebeck, 2/10).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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