File under, ‘only in Washington.’
While Democrats are howling that the Senate’s health care bill would gut Medicaid, a closer look at the numbers shows the legislation actually would increase spending to the safety-net program—by tens of billions of dollars.
According to the latest ‘score’ from the Congressional Budget Office, Medicaid spending would rise from $393 billion in 2017 to $464 billion in 2026—that’s a $71 billion, or 18 percent, increase.
So how are Democrats describing this as a Medicaid cut?
Because even a $71 billion increase is considerably smaller than what taxpayers would see under current law. If nothing changes, the CBO predicts Medicaid spending in 2026 would be a whopping $624 billion.
All told, Medicaid spending under the Senate bill would be roughly $772 billion less over the next decade.
But Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary to George W. Bush, told Fox News that’s still not really a cut -- since spending rises.
“When I was at the White House in 2001, Federal Medicaid spending was $129 billion,” Fleischer told Fox News in an email. “My point is in Washington, spending only goes up. The issue today is how much should Medicaid spending increase—by a lot or by a huge amount? There are NO cuts.”
Fleischer took to Twitter to hammer that point, accusing the media of ignoring the $71 billion increase. He compared the situation to a worker who gets a lower-than-expected raise and tries to call it a cut:
“Your salary today is $50k. Your boss promises it will be $100k in 10 years. Instead, u get $75k. Did you get a $25k raise or a $25k cut?”
Critics of the Senate plan, though, zeroed in on the CBO's projection that enrollment (both in Medicaid and other programs) would plummet and on the $772 billion figure.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., released a statement saying “the bill cuts $772 billion from Medicaid.”
“The crushing Medicaid cuts will have an especially brutal impact on rural America, shuttering rural hospitals and an important source of good-paying jobs,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the bill would “enact severe cuts to Medicaid that force people with disabilities into institutions.”
The reductions compared against current law would result in millions fewer enrollees, according to the CBO’s projections.
But McConnell’s office insists the plan will make Medicaid stronger.
“Better Care will preserve access to care for patients with preexisting conditions, strengthen Medicaid, and allow children to remain on their parents’ insurance through the age of 26,” McConnell said.
It's a message McConnell is trying to get out to his own party, as several moderate and conservative Republicans hold back support. Democratic opposition is virtually unanimous. Some allies, though, are backing up the Senate GOP leader as he defends the Medicaid changes.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., pointed out on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that Medicaid will "grow" despite critics' claims.
"I would also point out, I think it's important to note, the federal government spending on Medicaid is going to grow every year. It's never going to be cut. It's never going to shrink," Toomey said. "It will eventually be growing at a slightly slower rate."