Posted: 5:59 a.m. Thursday, April 18, 2013
By Mary Agnes Carey
Just in case the Obama administration didn’t know it already, cutting Medicare is hard to do.
During a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday on President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget, Democrats and Republicans proved that. Both Republicans, who have sought major changes to entitlements, and Democrats, who have vowed to preserve the programs, expressed concerns with the president’s blueprint.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., accused the administration of taking a “Lizzie Borden whack” at critical access hospitals, which provide basic emergency and inpatient care in rural areas. Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Bill Nelson of Florida and Robert Menendez of New Jersey objected to cuts in graduate medical education, saying they would hurt local hospitals and reduce the number of physicians who could be trained to treat the millions of Americans expected to gain coverage under the 2010 health law. Graduate medical education funding cuts would undermine “the very essence of the goals of the [Affordable Care Act],” Menendez said.
Even committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., when he wasn’t grilling Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the health law’s implementation, expressed concern about cuts to nursing homes, saying that they “may be too high and reduce access to care.”
Obama’s budget proposal follows his efforts to craft a “grand bargain” with Republican lawmakers that would cut entitlements and raise revenues to steady the federal budget. The comments at the hearing, however, suggest that he may have a way to go to persuade lawmakers.
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.