Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, released the proposed House FY 2016 Budget Resolution on March 17. The measure was passed by the Budget Committee the next day. While Congressional budgets are merely blueprints, they set the tone for spending and revenue priorities. The proposed House budget would cut overall spending by $5.5 trillion and reduce revenues by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Included in the spending cuts are combined cuts to the Medicaid program of $1.8 trillion. The proposed budget contains numerous specific provisions that would be devastating for vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities. Prime among these are:
- Medicaid. The House budget would cut Medicaid by $913 billion over 10 years through “flexible state allotments,” resulting in a cut of more than 30 percent by 2025. The federal government would no longer pay a fixed share of states’ Medicaid costs, starting in 2017. Instead, states would get a fixed dollar amount known as block grants or “state flexibility funds” (the process for determining the amounts of these funds is not specified).
- Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including Medicaid expansion. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded Medicaid to cover people with incomes up to 133% of the poverty level ($15,654 for an individual). The proposed House budget would repeal the ACA, resulting in millions of people losing access to health care.
- Medicare. The House budget would fundamentally restructure the Medicare program, including privatization and over $100 billion in spending cuts over 10 years.
- Discretionary Programs. Non-defense discretionary programs would be cut starting in 2017. The total 10 year cut would be $759 billion, or 14 percent below the current caps. Included in this category are many disability related programs such as housing, education, employment, transportation, and protection and advocacy.
- Social Security. The House budget would cut benefits for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries who also receive Unemployment Insurance because they have attempted to work, but lost their job through no fault of their own. It also reiterates a provision in the House rules for the 114th Congress that sets up hurdles to a routine replenishment of Social Security’s disability fund, needed to prevent across-the-board SSDI benefit cuts at the end of 2016. Finally, the House budget recommends establishing a commission to look at Social Security’s long term finances.