Senate and House Republicans released federal budget blueprints last week that seek to eliminate deficit spending in a decade and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
But the Senate's plan doesn't fully embrace controversial House proposals to overhaul Medicare. Instead, the Senate offers less detailed prescriptions for how it would go about culling costs from the healthcare coverage program.
The Senate blueprint, unveiled by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Budget Committee, would reduce anticipated spending under current law by $5.1 trillion through 2025. The bulk of those savings come from cutting healthcare programs.
The Senate anticipates saving $2.1 trillion over 10 years by eliminating the coverage provisions of the ACA. That includes repealing the law's expansion of Medicaid eligibility to adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level and jettisoning the subsidies available to low- and middle-income households to buy private plans through state and federal exchanges.
The Senate budget also includes an additional $400 billion in reductions to Medicaid spending over a decade and $430 billion in savings from changes to Medicare benefits.
The average annual growth in Medicare spending slows from 6.4% under current law to 5.5% under the GOP proposal, with those increases largely driven by an aging population. The average yearly increases in Medicaid spending drop from 5.6% to 4.2% under the Republican budget blueprint.
The release of the House and Senate budget proposals is merely the start of the congressional budgeting process. The difficult part will come when legislators have to fill in the specific details about where exactly they want to reduce spending.
A presidential veto almost certainly looms for anything resembling the current proposals.
Henry Aaron, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is skeptical about the ability of Republicans to pass a budget, even with full control of Congress. “Trying to find common ground within the Republican Party may not be as hard as finding common ground between Republicans and Democrats, but it's right up there,” he said.