White House to GOP: Hands Off Medicaid

As politicians squabble in the coming months over which federal programs to cut, Medicaid will be protected by a sort of favorite son status.

“Other than the most minimal, smart, efficiency-type of measure, Medicaid savings – Medicaid cuts – for this president, for this administration, are not on the table,” said Gene Sperling, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

Medicaid, the health care program for low-income Americans, will be expanded in 2014 under the provisions of President Obama’s health care law. With states now choosing whether to expand health coverage for the poor as part of that law, the White House wants to make sure “that the rug will not be pulled out from underneath them,” Sperling said.

And that, Sperling conceded, means more pressure to find some budget savings in Medicare.

“This [Medicaid] is now a middle-class entitlement that touches far more Americans than many people realize,” Colleen M. Grogan, an expert on Medicaid at the University of Chicago, told the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, half of all Americans either received Medicaid or had a friend or family member who received it in 2011, a national survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found.

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who’ve been pushing to cut $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next 10 years, have proposed converting the federal share of Medicaid’s payments for acute and long-term care services into an “allotment” that, they say, would give states “more flexibility in how they use Medicaid funds to meet the needs of their low-income populations.”