Clinton administration officials said they did not spotlight figures showing an earlier-than-expected deficit in the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund because it affirmed their findings that Medicare spending growth needs to be slowed.
But House Republicans used a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee to blast the administration for ignoring and hiding data that showed a deficit in fiscal 1995, only the second time in the Medicare program's history.
The data, compiled and published in an October 1995 Treasury Department report, showed that fiscal 1995 Medicare spending growth was 3.1% greater than projected and income 1.2% less than projected. That difference resulted in a $36 million trust-fund deficit. The Medicare trustees' 1995 report projected a $4.7 billion surplus for 1995 and no deficit until 1997.
Republicans accused administration officials of not taking the report seriously enough and urged them to renew talks on reining in Medicare growth as part of a deal to balance the budget by 2002.
"We're negotiating with reasonable Democrats," said Rep. William Thomas (R-Calif.), who is discussing a Medicare deal with conservative Democrats. "When are you going to be there?"