U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, issued the following joint statement today after sending a letter to President Obama about his refusal, for the fourth year in a row, to submit a legislative plan responding to the funding warning from the Medicare Trustees--despite a clear legal requirement to do so:
"Within fifteen days of presenting his budget plan, the President is required by law to send a legislative proposal to Congress to address Medicare's looming insolvency. For four straight years, this "Medicare trigger' has been issued. And for four straight years, President Obama has ignored the alarm and fled his post. America's debt, as measured by the International Monetary Fund, is now worse than Greece on a per-capita basis. The course President Obama has laid out leads to fiscal ruin. His budget plan raises taxes by $2 trillion, increases the debt by $11 trillion, and increases spending by $1.6 trillion.
"The President's unserious approach to Medicare will have serious consequences for seniors. President Obama continues to ignore his legal and moral obligations to protect the health security of America's seniors. While he refuses to advance credible solutions to strengthen Medicare, the President's health-care law does great harm to this critical program -- raiding Medicare by over $500 billion to fund a new open-ended entitlement, while leaving the fate of seniors' care to a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats in Washington. There is a growing bipartisan consensus on how best to preserve the Medicare guarantee, but the President won't join this discussion. The President is required by law to respond to the Medicare Trustees' annual warning, and -- as a matter of fundamental leadership -- is duty-bound to do so.
"Meanwhile, the Democratic leaders in the Senate refuse to bring a budget plan to the floor for the third straight year. The livelihoods, savings and futures of millions of hardworking Americans are at stake, but the President and his party's leaders can't even be bothered to fulfill their most basic obligations in a time of crisis."
The Sessions/Ryan letter is available here.
Full text of the letter follows:
March 1, 2012
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Following last year's Medicare Trustees' report, we wrote to you expressing our concern about the impending insolvency of the program's Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. We also asked that, in accordance with current-law requirements, your Administration submit to Congress a proposal to address the Medicare funding warning issued in last year's Trustees' report. To date, we have received neither a response nor solution.
The law requires you to submit a legislative proposal to Congress following a warning by the Medicare Trustees triggered by a determination in two consecutive years that general revenues will account for more than 45 percent of Medicare's outlays for the current fiscal year or any of the next six fiscal years. Specifically, Section 1105 of Title 31 of the U.S. Code requires:
If there is a Medicare funding warning under section 801(a)(2) of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 made in a year, the President shall submit to Congress, within the 15-day period beginning on the date of the budget submission to Congress under subsection (a) for the succeeding year, proposed legislation to respond to such warning.
Last year marked the sixth consecutive finding of excessive general-revenue funding and the fifth consecutive funding warning. During recent testimony before the House Budget Committee, Medicare's Chief Actuary suggested that it is likely this year's Trustees report will issue its seventh consecutive such finding. As if this weren't a clear enough call to action, your own Secretary of Health and Human Services testified last year before the same committee that "the traditional Medicare Fee-For-Service program is unsustainable."
Mr. President, the Medicare Trustees, Medicare's Chief Actuary, and your own Administration have all sounded the alarm about Medicare's financial distress. Yet, the budget you submitted to Congress this month continues to punt on addressing the foremost fiscal threat to seniors, physicians, and the national balance sheet. Not only does this violate the statutory obligations laid out under current law, but it also threatens the sustainability of health care security for today's seniors and future Medicare beneficiaries.
You have often asked for Congress to "put politics aside" and solve the pressing issues facing our country. We would ask that you join us in this challenge and put a plan on the table. We look forward to receiving legislation to address the Medicare funding warning in the near future.
Very truly yours,
Senator Jeff Sessions
Representative Paul Ryan