Reprising a proposal it made in late 1995, the Catholic Health Association once again has put forth a plan to eliminate the federal deficit without loosening the healthcare safety net.
The CHA plan would seek slightly less savings from Medicare between 1998 and 2002 than President Clinton has proposed, while seeking no savings from Medicaid over those five years. It asks for $28 billion in the same period in new spending to expand children's healthcare coverage.
In publishing an alternative, the CHA is trying to demonstrate the budget can be balanced while preserving Medicare and expanding healthcare coverage for children.
"It's supposed to be kind of an educational tool (showing) that we can get to zero without decimating some of these programs," said CHA lobbyist Jack Bresch.
Although the CHA proposes no net savings in Medicaid, it does suggest reducing disproportionate-share hospital payments and using those savings to cover more uninsured people.
And because Medicaid programs appear to be restraining their spending growth, the CHA's plan rejects Clinton's proposal to cap per-person Medicaid expenditure increases.
It also proposed repealing provisions of the welfare reform law passed last year by reinstating Medicaid eligibility for low-income and disabled legal immigrants.
The plan seeks no tax cuts, as proposed by Clinton and many Republicans, and in fact would impose a 24-cent-a-pack cigarette tax increase, raising $17 billion over five years. Extending expiring taxes and closing some corporate tax loopholes would result in an additional $61 billion in tax revenues in the period.
It also would pare half a percentage point from the Consumer Price Index, the government's chief measure of inflation that is used to increase federal benefit payments. That reduction, which likely would anger many labor and senior citizens' groups, would yield $71 billion in savings over five years.
The association plans to publish the details in an advertisement this week in a Capitol Hill newspaper.