Medicaid is in the news today, or at least POLITICO, which says "Dems quiet on Medicaid cutbacks," which isn't entirely true. But a refocus on this critical program for Democrats is certainly in order.
[F]or all the Democrats’ posturing and campaigning against Republican plans for Medicare, the GOP budget actually makes more immediate and deeper cuts to Medicaid. But Democrats haven’t been blasting the GOP Medicaid plan with nearly the same fervor, even though Republicans would cut about $750 billion from the program during the next decade and end the guaranteed federal match for states.
With intense budget negotiations on the debt limit under way, health care insiders think Democrats won’t budge much on Medicare now that they have a significant campaign chip in their pockets: Kathy Hochul’s upset win in New York’s 26th Congressional District is Exhibit A of the power of Medicare.
And that makes advocates worry that Medicaid cuts are more likely to come out of budget negotiations led by Vice President Biden.
Democrats haven't focused as intently on Medicaid as Medicare, but what they have said has been good. White House Economic Direct Gene Sperling was particularly forceful in blasting the Ryan plan and specifically its Medicaid proposal:
So when we say that there—that the tyranny of the math is that these—these—this Medicaid program, this Medicaid cut will lead to millions of poor children, children with serious disabilities, children with autism—elderly Americans in nursing homes losing their coverage or being—or—or having it significantly cut, we are not criticizing their plan. We are just simply explaining their plan.
Sen. Robert Mendendez has declared Medicaid cuts off the table, saying the Medicaid block grant proposal from Republicans "is not, in my mind, a plan that will find currency in our caucus." And House Democrats are publicizing the massive cuts the Republican plan would create, on a congressional district level.
None of which is to say that Medicaid could end up being the bargaining chip that keeps Medicare out of the final mix, which is why advocates are raising the alarm now. They have good reason, since Republicans seem intent on slashing Medicaid to the bone. You needn't look further than Florida Gov. Chris Christie and his proposal to limit Medicaid to impossible bounds, to families of three making less than $6,000 annually. Republicans consider Medicaid nothing more then welfare, and seem to think the rest of America shares that attitude.
Democrats should be folding Medicaid into their messaging on Medicare, and focus on the fact that the Republican plan for Medicaid would hurt current senior citizens as well as million of middle- and low-income families.