House, Senate Budget Resolutions Have No Plan to Fix Sequestration

March 24, 2015 at 11:50 am

A major budget issue for fiscal year 2016 is whether policymakers will replace the “sequestration” budget cuts that are tightly constraining non-entitlement programs.  Rather than provide a clear plan to do so, however, the budget resolutions that will come to the House and Senate floors this week offer only aspirational language along with a gimmick for defense.

Both resolutions offer the prospect of so-called reserve funds for this or that program initiative.  These funds provide no plan and set aside no dollars. … Read more

House Bill Makes Permanent Medicare Premium Assistance for Low-Income Beneficiaries

March 24, 2015 at 11:24 am

The compromise legislation that House Republican and Democratic leaders unveiled today to permanently fix Medicare’s flawed physician payment formula and extend funding and current policy for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2017 has another important feature — it would also make permanent the Qualifying Individuals (QI) program, which helps low-income Medicare beneficiaries pay their premiums and is otherwise slated to expire at the end of March.

QI is one of the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) through which Medicaid helps low-income Medicare beneficiaries pay their Medicare premiums and/or other cost-sharing charges. … Read more

Estate Tax Repeal = More Inequality + Bigger Deficits

March 24, 2015 at 10:20 am

As our new paper explains, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to consider a bill this week to repeal the federal estate tax on inherited wealth, just one week after the House Budget Committee approved a budget plan calling for $5 trillion in program cuts disproportionately affecting low- and moderate-income Americans.

Repealing the estate tax would be highly misguided — especially in the context of the House Budget Committee plan, which would repeal health reform and cut Medicaid deeply, causing tens of millions of Americans to become uninsured or underinsured; cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), making it harder for millions of low-income families to put food on the table; and cut Pell Grants, raising the financial hurdle for people of modest means to attend college. … Read more

The House Budget Committee Plan — Not Medicaid — Makes Empty Promises

March 23, 2015 at 4:57 pm

The House Budget Committee’s budget plan, which the House will consider on the floor this week, states that “Medicaid’s promises are empty,” claiming that beneficiaries don’t have health care providers who will see them and thus don’t have access to needed care.

That’s not true; research shows that Medicaid beneficiaries have access to care comparable to that of private insurance.  In fact, it’s the House budget plan that offers the empty promises to the tens of millions of people who rely on Medicaid. … Read more

House, Senate Budget Plans Each Get 69 Percent of Cuts From Low-Income Programs

March 23, 2015 at 3:58 pm

The 2016 budget resolutions that the House and Senate will consider this week each cut more than $3 trillion over ten years (2016-2025) from programs that serve people of limited means — representing 69 percent of their cuts to non-defense spending, as we explain in a new analysis (see chart).

The plans are strikingly imbalanced.  While 69 percent of their cuts come from programs for people with low or modest incomes, these programs constitute less than 25 percent of federal program costs. … Read more

In Case You Missed It . . .

March 20, 2015 at 4:59 pm

In this busy week for Off the Charts, we focused on the budget plans from the chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, food assistance, the safety net, and health reform.

  • On the congressional budget plans, Chuck Marr showed that the plan from House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price would heavily favor people at the top of the income scale. Bryann DaSilva explained that both the Price plan and the plan from Senate Budget Committee Chair Mike Enzi leave out key tax provisions for low-income working families.
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Learning What Works: SNAP’s New Employment and Training Demos

March 20, 2015 at 11:14 am

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez today announced ten pilot projects — the result of a bipartisan agreement in the 2013 Farm Bill — that will test innovative approaches to encouraging and supporting employment among SNAP participants.  While modest in scope, the pilots show that Congress can collaborate around important issues like finding better ways to expand economic opportunity for low-income Americans.

During the Farm Bill debate, the Agriculture Committees took a hard look at SNAP’s job training program after the House adopted highly contentious work requirements. … Read more

Don’t Be Fooled by Small “Reconciliation” Savings Targets in House Budget Committee Plan

March 19, 2015 at 3:54 pm

The House Budget Committee-approved budget plan instructs various committees to prepare bills that would cut programs by specified amounts; Congress would then consider these bills under a fast-track process called “reconciliation.”  The specified savings, ranging from $1 billion down to $15 million over ten years, are tiny in relation to the more than $4 trillion of entitlement savings that the budget plan proposes as a whole.  But the cuts that the committees will eventually recommend will likely be much, much bigger. … Read more

CHIP Success Is No Reason to Convert Much of Medicaid to Block Grants

March 19, 2015 at 2:48 pm

In proposing to convert much of Medicaid into two block grants, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi’s budget plan claims the Medicaid block grants would follow the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) model.  As we’ve explained, however, Medicaid under block grants would operate far differently than CHIP and would lead to damaging cuts to states, beneficiaries, and health care providers.

CHIP is funded through a block grant structure, yet it’s helped reduce the share of children without health coverage to a historic low. … Read more

Congressional Budget Plans Hurt Low-Income Working Families

March 19, 2015 at 1:49 pm

As we’ve explained, the new budget plans from House and Senate Budget Committee Chairmen Tom Price and Mike Enzi would impose deep cuts in programs for low- and moderate-income Americans, exacerbating poverty and inequality.  One way they would worsen poverty is by allowing crucial provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for low- and modest-income working people to expire at the end of 2017.  That would push more than 16 million people, including almost 8 million children, into or deeper into poverty (see chart).… Read more

Senate Budget Chairman’s Plan Would Block-Grant Much of Medicaid, Repeal Medicaid Expansion

March 19, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Like House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price’s budget plan, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi’s new plan proposes to radically restructure Medicaid by converting much of it into two block grants and cutting federal Medicaid funding by roughly $400 billion over the next decade.  And like the Price plan, it would repeal health reform’s Medicaid expansion.  The combined Medicaid cut would exceed $1.3 trillion over ten years, relative to current law, leaving millions of Americans uninsured or underinsured.

Repealing health reform’s Medicaid expansion means that at least 14 million people would lose their Medicaid coverage or no longer gain coverage in the future, as we explained in our analysis of Chairman Price’s plan.  … Read more

House Budget Chair’s Priority: Tax Cuts for Well-to-Do

March 18, 2015 at 12:25 pm

While imposing harsh budget cuts on the most vulnerable Americans, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price’s budget plan also appears to reflect a continuing drive to cut taxes for the nation’s highest-income people.

Unlike past years’ House budgets, this plan doesn’t specify a top tax-rate target of 25 percent.  It claims, more generally, that it “substantially lowers tax rates for individuals.”  Still, other details of the plan clearly indicate tax priorities that favor high-income households:

  • Repealing all health reform revenue changes.
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