Republican Medicare Plan 2019 - Spending Cuts & More

By: Meredith Miller
Published: Thursday, January 10 2019
Last Updated: 6 months ago

When it came last year’s midterm elections, healthcare was the name of the game. Voters were turning out in large numbers, making sure that their voice was heard when it came to what they wanted the US healthcare system to look like, as clearly not many are not happy with the state of current affairs.

It’s not so farfetched to argue that a defining reason the Democratic Party took back the US House of Representatives in 2018 was their commitment to Medicare, while the Republican Medicare plan was quite the opposite. The GOP didn’t hide the fact that their plan included gutting Obamacare and weakening Medicare, which would affect millions of the most vulnerable Americans. Polling did a lot to confirm the this as well.

Republicans Look To Cut Medicare Spending 2019

It’s hard to hide your intentions when you’re required to publish your spending budgets. When House Republicans balanced their books for 2019, headlines and reports surfaced immediately. The Washington Post, one of the first major publications to inform the rest of the country what the GOP had up their sleeves, and posted a report that the plan was to switch Medicare beneficiaries to private healthcare plans, in an effort to save nearly $537 billion over the next decade. House Budget Chairman, Steve Womack (R-Ark.), provided the following reason:

The time is now for our Congress to step up and confront the biggest challenge to our society. There is not a bigger enemy on the domestic side than the debt and deficits.

Similar privatizations plans for Medicaid, a joint state and federally funded healthcare plan for low-income individuals and families, have resulted in higher costs and less service. You could argue that the state pays less, but costs per Medicaid user in Iowa are said to have tripled, according to that same article. The Republican Medicare plan simply wasn't popular, especially with a growing number of people lobbying for universal healthcare.

Those cuts also became the Trump Medicare Cuts, because the Trump administration backed a similar bunch of cuts in their administrative proposals. The current administration didn't distance itself from these draconian cuts, but embraced them instead, and warned there would be plenty of cuts after the midterms.

What Are the Proposed Medicare Cuts For 2019?

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare outlined all the Republican Medicare budget cuts that the GOP house proposed and it's a long list. The following is a condensed list of the Republican Medicare plan cuts here:

  • The Republican Medicare plans called for raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67. Some Democratic politicians called for lowering eligibility to 50 or 55 years old to include more people. Medicare is an extremely popular program.
  • The Republican Medicare plans, and pretty much the Trump Medicare cuts since he endorsed the House GOP's budget cuts, included raising the costs for Medicare users by using higher cost sharing and income-related premiums.
  • The GOP House would also enact budget cuts to the Affordable Care Act (Also known as Obamacare) which had increased funding by extending the solvency of something called the Medicare Part A Hospital Trust Fund.
  • The Republican budget cuts would also end traditional Medicare by changing it to a defined benefit to a defined contribution. Or to translate: from an affordable right to a possibly unaffordable privilege. It would extend the prescription drug crisis to overall healthcare.

How Will Budget Cuts Affect American Seniors?

Of course, cuts to Medicare wouldn't be the only way that American senior citizens would be harmed. Both the House GOP and the Trump administration endorsed cuts to both social security and Medicaid, which also benefits seniors. Not to mention cuts to programs like Meals on Wheels, which primarily benefit senior citizens.

In fact, before the 2018 midterm elections, Republican leadership was making it very clear that they were planning to cut healthcare and so-called entitlement programs in order to fund their massive tax cuts, which has exploded the federal deficit. The GOP also had some Medicare cuts in the tax bill to cut Medicare but those failed in the Senate.

Will There Be Cuts To Social Security?

Before the 2018 midterm elections, nobody was certain whether or not these bills would actually pass, and if they would choose to cut into Social Security as well. Although, if the Republicans had maintained control of the House, there was a higher chance of Medicare and Social Security cuts. Since the DNC was able to regain control, any cuts to healthcare programs would probably be stopped before they became law.

The majority of Democratic candidates ran on platforms which preserved Social Security, Medicare and ensuring public programs stayed intact. For that reason, reversing course to betray voters, and members of their own party, no Medicare or Social Security cuts will be passed in the House in 2019.

That being said, it's not clear what the future will bring. President Trump had pretty much free rein and no oversight when the GOP controlled both chambers. It's also clear that planned Medicare cuts for 2019 failed. It's not clear now what will happen now that he has to deal with a Pelosi led Democratic US House.

Historically, this has meant minor cuts around the edges and not wholesale changes. There probably won't be any pay Medicare cuts in any tax bill. The DNC probably won't get Medicare for All this cycle, just like the GOP probably won't get to privatize or even get most of the proposed Trump Medicare cuts. However, nothing in politics is a sure bet, we can only wait and see how policy hashes itself out.