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Senate Doesn't Advance Proposed Medicare, Medicaid Overhaul

Source: WSJ - Corey Boles and Janet Hook

Posted on 26 May 2011

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Every Democratic senator, along with five Republicans, failed to advance a House Republican plan to overhaul the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Several political analysts viewed the Senate vote on the budget plan, sponsored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), to be a political gesture that didn't have a chance of passing the Senate. Democrats brought Rep. Ryan's budget to a vote in order to force Republicans on the record in supporting the proposal, which includes far reaching plans to alter the two major government-run health-care programs.

Senators will continue voting on three further budget plans, including a version of President Barack Obama's budget, all of which are expected to fail.

The dueling votes serve to illustrate the vast differences between Democrats and Republicans on federal government funding levels and how to address the fiscal problems resulting from large entitlement programs.

The Senate vote was 40-57 against beginning formal debate on the Ryan budget plan. One Democrat and two Republicans didn't cast a vote.

The five Republicans who voted against the plan were Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Sen. Paul opposed the plan because he believes it doesn't go far enough to rein in federal spending, while the others all voted no over concerns about the Medicare proposal.

Rep. Ryan's plan would essentially replace Medicare with a voucher scheme providing subsidies to seniors towards their health care costs, but leaving it up to them to shop around in the private insurance market for the best plan to suit their needs.

On Medicaid, it would provide increasingly smaller block grants to states to offer health care for poorer Americans, and allow them to determine the best way to do so.

Democrats and independent economists have said both overhauls would lead to seniors and poor Americans being forced to shoulder a greater burden of their health care costs.

Republican leaders said earlier Wednesday that the GOP proposal to overhaul Medicare played a role in the election upset Tuesday.

But they accused Democrats of deploying scare tactics aimed at the Medicare plan that could sabotage bipartisan efforts to rein in federal spending and debt this year.