Trump budget hits health care hard

In his Feb. 6 State of the Union address, President Donald Trump said. “We will always protect your Medicare, and we will always protect your Social Security. Always.”

On Feb. 10, he released his fiscal year 2020-21 proposed budget with — wait for it — cuts to Medicaid and Child­ren’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare, Social Security and Affordable Care Act tax credits. Cuts totaled over $1 trillion.

They included:

— Medicaid and CHIP. These programs protect the most vulnerable of our citizens: the poor, children and elderly in long-term care and take the biggest hit, reduced by more than $920 billion.

A large part of that is elimination of federal matching funds for Medicaid expansion under ACA.

Thirteen million Americans and over 700,000 Pennsyl­vanians who received Medicaid under the ACA expansion would lose coverage.

He also proposes moving Medicaid from a mandatory spending program to a block grant program with caps on spending.

This proposal, which has been repeatedly rejected by Congress, could lead to restricting enrollment for eligible beneficiaries, limit benefits and decrease reimbursement rates to area hospitals.

And because Medicaid is currently a federal matching funds program, it would have a profound, negative effect on the state budget.

— Medicare. The cuts to Medicare, about 7% of Medicare spending, are more difficult to assess. Given increasing enrollment in Medicare as baby boomers age, they are concerning. Some savings are achieved by rooting out fraud and abuse.

I applaud those efforts. But cuts also reduce payments to providers and could mean some patients will lose access to their current doctors. Also, these are the same type of cuts Republicans decried when they were proposed by the Obama administration.

— ACA tax credits. The budget also cuts ACA tax credits, which means many Pennsyl­vanians who get insurance coverage through the marketplace will lose their insurance.

— Social Security. The proposed budget reduces disability and supplemental security income by $75 billion. These programs are particularly important to older individuals often disabled from a lifetime of hard work but not yet at full retirement age.

The administration’s budget proposal, though unlikely to pass Congress, is a blueprint for what they want to do. It hurts the average Pennsyl­vanian and is especially hurtful to the most vulnerable among us.

Helen Sheehy