House Democrats assailed President Bush’s fiscal 2008 healthcare budget today and offered the strongest hint yet that they would shoot down the administration’s 5-year plan to shave roughly $75 billion from Medicare and another $25 billion from Medicaid. Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee told HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt that the president’s budget would greatly hinder the nation’s healthcare providers in their ability to treat the young, old and poor alike. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said that the proposed budget would hurt safety-net hospitals and the public health system as a whole, while shifting costs to cities, counties and states.
Leavitt, however, defended the president’s budget for a second straight day. The secretary called the budget "aggressive yet responsible," but added that the department was forced to make some hard decisions. Leavitt lauded the president’s Affordable Choices Initiative, which would help free up states to create programs that offer some level of basic health insurance protection, and he said the budget aims to slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid—two programs that are increasingly unsustainable.