House Votes on Medicaid, Food Stamp Cuts
The House is voting on a sweeping set of budget cuts today that would slash services used by people who need them the most. According to a New York Times editorial, "The five-year, $54 billion proposal is headed for a floor vote this week disguised as an overdue act of fiscal responsibility and government savings. In truth, it is so over-the-top in its inequities and giveaways that embarrassed moderates are actually rebelling, withholding support unless some of the more outrageous measures - like despoiling the Alaska wildlife refuge with oil drilling - are killed."
Hoping to encourage moderate Republicans to vote for the bill, the House decided to drop the amendment that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. Food stamps and drilling for oil. See the connection?
Now is the time to call your Representatives and express your opinion on this issue. The American Friends Service Committee has donated their toll-free number for the week of November 7. Call 800-426-8073 to be connected to the capitol switchboard.
Which programs will be hit the hardest?
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the House bill would cut food stamp benefits by about $45 a month for 225,000 people and that 40,000 children would lose their eligibility for free meals at school. About 70,000 legal aliens would no longer qualify for food stamps. The Senate version of the legislation, passed last week, would save about $36 billion over five years and would do so without cutting food stamps or health care to poor or elderly beneficiaries.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Medicaid reductions in the House proposal, which seeks more out-of-pocket spending from beneficiaries and also increases premiums and co-payments, would total $30 billion over 10 years. The changes could affect six million children who live in poverty, according to Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. In addition, the proposed Medicaid cuts could affect five and a half million people with disabilities, Greenstein said. "For many millions of people the allowable charge for a health care service (co-payment), which currently is $3 would be raised to a level that would have no ceiling at all. Premiums, which can't be imposed [now], could be imposed on these people," Greenstein said, adding the only restriction on states would be that co-payments and premiums combined could not exceed 5 percent of a family's annual income.
Buried in the House bill are cuts that could strip funding from state child care enforcement budgets. Arizona groups are warning that the bill, "if passed, it could mean a $59 million cut for the state's child-support enforcement over the next five years and a $10 million to $12 million reduction for the state's Child Protective Services." California's Arnold Schwarzenegger also criticized the "proposed reduction in federal reimbursement to states for child support enforcement from 66 percent to 50 percent." The funding cuts would reduce the ability of states to collect payments from deadbeat parents, among other provisions.