Medicare and Medicaid cuts should be included in a grand bargain that cuts future federal deficits by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in an address to a liberal advocacy group.
The second highest ranking Democrat in the Senate and a leading congressional liberal, Durbin specifically supported several cost-saving measures, including cuts to allowable state provider taxes and cutting reimbursements for dual-eligible beneficiaries to Medicaid levels.
“It's a nice move to come up with some more state funds to be matched by federal funds, but it's got to come to an end,” Durbin said about state Medicaid provider taxes.
The cuts to the federal healthcare programs would come as part of an “approach of putting everything on the table” to obtain a debt agreement in principle before the end of the year, Durbin said Tuesday at the Center for American Progress. He emphasized that the cuts would be matched by tax increases on households making at least $250,000.
An increase in Medicare's eligibility age would garner Durbin's support, he said, only if older Americans were guaranteed access to affordable insurance “from retirement until they actually qualify for Medicare.”
Durbin, who was a member of President Barack Obama's 2010 deficit-reduction commission and voted for its final recommendation, repeatedly cited its approach as a model. That group, known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission, recommended 10-year savings of $44 billion (PDF)
by cutting state provider taxes and $12 billion by placing all of the dual eligibles in Medicaid managed care.
The commission's Medicare recommendations offering “real efficiencies in the delivery of healthcare” also drew his support.
Durbin's approach excluded any cuts to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The support of a senior Democrat to some cuts in Medicare and Medicaid may draw concerns from liberal advocacy groups and provider groups, some of which have urged negotiators to shield the federal health programs from any role in deficit-reduction negotiations.