Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), who was President Bill Clinton's health care advisor and served as California's Insurance Commissioner for eight years, today decried the Ryan Republican budget plan to end Medicare as we know it. He also expressed disappointment that the House Republican plan calls for a one-third reduction in Medicaid by 2022. This is despite the fact that two-thirds of Medicaid spending is for services that help seniors and persons with disabilities. Also, over half of all Medicaid enrollees are children. A number of community advocacy organizations have already come out against the budget, including the AARP which wrote a statement titled "Budget Proposal Shifts Costs To Seniors Rather than Reducing Costs Throughout Health Care System."
"It's Groundhog Day at the U.S. Capitol. Congress and the court of public opinion debated this issue in the Presidential campaign for all of last year. The American public had an opportunity to embrace the Ryan Republican plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system and to decimate Medicaid. The American people chose a different path forward," said Congressman Garamendi. "Let's stop with the divisive fights of yesteryear and instead focus on how we can work together to keep our economy moving forward."
Garamendi added, "I find it curious that after attacking Democrats relentlessly for cutting $716 billion in waste out of the Medicare program -- reducing the deficit and making Medicare more solvent -- Chairman Ryan and House Republicans are now quietly pocketing every penny of those savings in their budget."
Under the House Republican Medicare voucher plan, seniors will face substantially higher out-of-pocket expenses, since the voucher will not keep pace with private insurance medical inflation. Under Chairman Ryan's plan, seniors would pay as much as $1,200 more each year by 2030, and as much as $5,900 more each year by 2050.
The Medicaid/MediCal cuts proposed in the Ryan Republican budget would have an even more immediate impact on existing seniors, millions of whom rely on it for nursing home services. By slashing a third of Medicaid's budget and converting it into a block grant forcing America's lowest earners back into the private insurance market, the Ryan budget is anticipated to reduce Medicaid enrollment in half. Combined with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the House Republican budget would deny over 40 million Americans the freedom of living with secure health insurance coverage.
Congressman Garamendi believes we can improve services and reduce costs in Medicare and Medicaid without cutting benefits. He encourages House Republicans to support smart deficit savings supported by the American public, including:
Allowing Medicare to directly negotiate prescription drug prices;
Allowing Medicare and Medicaid to import prescription drugs from Canada and other countries with robust safety standards;
Instituting payment reforms that focus on quality of care;
Encouraging cost-effective preventative care;
Working with providers to reduce the rate of hospital infections and errors; and
Continuing to aggressively crack down on Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
As California's Insurance Commissioner, Garamendi authored a state health care reform plan that would have expanded affordable coverage to almost every Californian. That plan was vetoed by then-Governor Pete Wilson. Garamendi also advised President Bill Clinton on health care policy and provided many of the ideas that would become the early-1990s Clinton health care plan.