CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 2006
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AMENDMENT NO. 204
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, our Nation is facing very difficult fiscal realities which are only going to become more difficult and expensive the longer we wait to take action. The Federal Government can no longer afford ``business as usual.'' According to the GAO, the unfunded Federal financial burden for public debt, including future Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments, totals more than $40 trillion or $140,000 per man, woman and child. At what point do we listen to the wake up call?
The Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, has recently warned Congress and the Nation that, ``In the end, the consequences for the U.S. economy of doing nothing could be severe. But the benefits of taking sound, timely action could extend many decades into the future.'' We must all work together to reduce the crippling $412 billion budget deficit and the mounting unfunded Federal financial burden.
I commend the administration for submitting a budget request that proposes reduced funding for a number of programs. I clearly understand that every program is important to certain constituencies, and Medicaid is at the top of the list for many. The Medicaid program provides critical services to some of the most vulnerable people in our nation. In my home State of Arizona, we have an outstanding Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, that represents a model for other States.
Unfortunately, not every state Administers its program as efficiently as Arizona. The reality is, Medicaid costs are skyrocketing out of control. It is time we took a long hard look at this program--as every other program for that matter and develop proposals to ensure that Medicaid will continue to serve the neediest Americans over the long term.
Let me be clear. I do not support across the board cuts to the Medicaid program. In fact, I believe such an action could have a disastrous effect on many important efforts that ensure access to care for many Americans who have nowhere else to turn. Additionally, I recognize that cuts to Medicaid that result in reduction of covered individuals would flood hospital emergency rooms with additional uninsured patients, forcing hospitals to absorb additional cost for uncompensated care. Arizona has one of the highest uninsured populations in the country and a large number of undocumented immigrants, our hospitals are already struggling to absorb the cost of providing uncompensated care, dramatically reducing medicare eligible populations could severely impact the hospital system in my State and in many others.
In debating potential cuts to the Medicaid program, we must work to ensure that the federal government does not further exacerbate these existing problems. Any effort to reform Medicaid must be made in a cautious and deliberative manner.
We simply must start to control spending and make some very difficult decisions among competing priorities. I was pleased to have joined with Senators SMITH and BINGAMAN in cosponsoring S. 338, the bipartisan commission on Medicaid Act of 2005, which was introduced on February 9, 2005. I cannot vote for the pending amendment because I believe strongly that the fiscal reality of Medicaid must be addressed sooner rather than later. And I have been around here long enough to know that too often we need to have our feet held to the fire to really make meaningful progress on difficult issues. So I hope that we can agree to cut waste in the Medicaid program and also create a bipartisan task force to provide recommendations for how best to reform the program for the long run. In my judgment, only through comprehensive reforms can we prevent across the board cuts in Medicaid in the long term. We should begin our reform efforts today.