Monday, August 8, 2011

WCCF Update

Senator Ron Johnson announced that his staff will hold office hours around the state to meet with individuals needing assistance with a federal agency or wanting to discuss other federal matters. This is a good opportunity to talk about Medicaid, education, Social Security, Medicare, and other federal topics important to you. Although, Senator Johnson will not be attending his office hours, he will have his staff attend them and to report to him on what was said.

With all the action last week in DC, please take the time to read WCCF Research Director Jon Peacock's article, "THE DEBT CEILING DEAL: MEDICAID DODGES A BULLET, FOR NOW." I have attached the article after the list of office hours.

The office hours will be held:

Tuesday, August 9
10:30 am -- 11:30 am
Auditorium, Chippewa Falls City Hall
30 West Central Street
Chippewa Falls, WI 54729

Tuesday, August 9
3:00 pm -- 4:30 pm
Conference Room, Superior City Hall 204
1316 North 14th Street
Superior, WI 54880

Wednesday, August 10
9:30 am -- 10:30 am
Small Conference Room, Rusk County Courthouse
311 Miner Avenue East
Ladysmith WI 54848

Wednesday, August 10
12:00 pm -- 1:00 pm
Gays Mills Community Building
212 Main Street
Gays Mills, WI 54631

Wednesday, August 10
12:00 pm -- 1:00 pm
Council Room, Phillips City Hall
174 South Eyder Avenue
Phillips, WI 54555

Wednesday, August 10
3:00 pm -- 4:00 pm
County Board Room, Iron County Courthouse
300 Taconite Street
Hurley, WI 54534

Thursday, August 11
9:00 am -- 10:00 am
Conference Room, Ashland City Hall
601 Main Street West


For the moment, Medicaid providers and advocates can breathe a large sigh of relief that the program was largely spared from the first $900 billion of federal budget cuts. However, the work to protect Medicaid has only just begun, since Congress will soon embark on an effort to find another $1.5 trillion of cuts and interest savings.

In a blog post on Monday, I summarized the 3-part strategy that the bill creates for cutting a total of $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. The first part of that process is about $900 billion of cuts that were locked into place by the new law. These cuts include $350 billion from defense and security spending and $550 billion from non-defense discretionary spending. Fortunately, “discretionary” spending does not include Medicaid.

The second stage is the creation of a 12-member bipartisan, bicameral Congressional “supercommittee,” which is charged with producing a plan by the end of the year for $1.5 trillion in further cuts (and interest savings) from entitlements and tax revenues. Although the deal allows additional revenue to be part of the solution, Rep. Boehner continues to insist that GOP members won’t vote for any compromise that includes added revenue. This stage is where Medicaid is very vulnerable to significant cutbacks. An Aug. 1 Washington Post column by Suzy Khimm outlines 5 approaches the committee might take for reducing Medicare and Medicaid spending.

The third stage comes if the committee fails to produce a bill or the bill doesn’t pass. That would trigger “automatic” across-the-board cuts in the amount of $1.2 trillion over 10 years. One half of those cuts will be in defense, and one half will be in entitlement programs. However, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, SSI, SNAP, child nutrition programs and TANF are exempt from the cuts. Medicare can be cut, but there is a cap on that cut and it only applies to providers.

This process will be frightening to watch as it unfolds, but will also be extremely interesting politically. Pro-defense lawmakers will probably fight to ensure that the supercommittee comes up with a plan, thus avoiding automatic cuts that fall heavily on defense spending. However, many of the same legislators are likely to oppose any tax increases. Democrats will try again to insist upon a more balanced plan that also includes some additional revenue, and if they can’t get that concession then they could potentially block an agreement in committee and force the fallback solution, which protects Medicaid and other entitlements. In other words, the alternatives were crafted in a way that gives Democrats some leverage to protect entitlements – if the Democrats can hold together.

Many other areas of health care spending are at even greater risk. In the latest post from the series “Notes on Health Insurance and Reform,” Kaiser Family Foundation experts assess possible effects on the health reform law’s cost-sharing subsidies, which were created to make health care more affordable for lower- and middle-income people.

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