Republicans accused of killing Medicare while asking Obama to save program from financial disaster

Amanda Carey Contributor
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Sen. Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee Wisconsin, sent a letter to President Barack Obama Tuesday calling on him to submit a plan that addresses the financial insolvency of Medicare.

Just this past May, Social Security and Medicare trustees released a report predicting that Medicare would run out of funds in 2024. Previous reports predicted 2029. Moreover, for the sixth year in a row, the trustees made an “excess general revenue Medicare funding” determination.

That means that while the program is running a $32 billion cash-flow deficit, more than 45 percent of Medicare funding is coming from the general revenue fund — not the payroll tax that is supposed to suppor the program.

According to the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, when the 45 percent threshold is reached, the president is required to submit a legislative proposal to Congress within 15 days of the next budget. It’s a mechanism known as the “Medicare Trigger”.

So far, the Obama Administration has not issued a proposal, which was the thrust of the Ryan-Sessions letter Tuesday.

“As Chairman and Ranking Member of the House and Senate Budget Committees, respectively, we are deeply disappointed that your administration continues to ignore this legal obligation,” said the letter from the two Republicans. “[Y]our administration has not provided a response to the annual Medicare trigger, ignoring the law in each of the past three years.”

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Since the Medicare Trigger was reached last year, the Obama administration should have produced a proposal within 15 days of when the president submitted his budget on February 14 of this year.

In recent weeks, Sessions has been one of the most outspoken lawmakers on the need to pass a budget that addresses the national deficit.

On Tuesday, Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid called Sessions out on the Senate floor, saying that he heard the Republican “come here and talk for hours, and he keeps talking about things that really have no bearing on what I think is important for the country today, and that is we know that the Republicans have put forward a budget that destroys Medicare.”

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Later in the day, Sessions responded saying, “I guess he [Reid] got a little tired of my harping … Well the Republicans didn’t destroy Medicare. Give me a break.”

“The things I’ve been talking about do have bearing, and I’m disappointed that my good friend, the Democrat leader, doesn’t agree,” Sessions continued. “The debt, the economy, gasoline prices, jobs — those are matters that ‘have no bearing on what is important to our country?’”