It's Time to Follow Kitzhaber’s Good Lead on Federal Budget Debate

Chuck Sheketoff

It was great to see that Governor Kitzhaber joined with 16 other governors in speaking out against the U.S. House Republican budget plan that would convert Medicaid into a block grant in a letter sent to congressional leadership (PDF).

Medicaid enables states to provide health coverage and long term care to low-income children, adults and people with disabilities. It’s funded jointly by the federal and state governments, with the federal government matching state expenditures. Governor Kitzhaber knows that the federal government contributes about $1.70 for every dollar Oregon spends. When costs rise because states like Oregon choose to help more people, the federal government stands by the states’ decisions and supports the increased funding. When the economy turns sour and more people need help, the federal government joins the states and provides more assistance.

A block grant, on the other hand, would end the matched funding, offering states only a set amount of money. It would put states in a precarious position as demand for health care increases –- no matter what the cause -- and costs rise over time.

The governors’ letter that Kitzhaber co-signed noted that the block grant proposal would “severely undercut” the ability of states to provide health care and adequately pay providers, and "would shift costs and risk to the states."

Medicaid is among the programs taking the biggest hits under the so-called "Ryan plan," named after its author, U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). The Democratic Policy and Communications Center estimates that the Ryan plan would rip more than $15.9 billion out of Oregon's Medicaid programs over the next 10 years (PDF). That’s another reason why Kitzhaber is spot on with his criticism of the block grant.

Over all, the Ryan plan would cut more than $4 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade. About two-thirds of that money would come from programs that serve low-income Americans, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

For all the pain inflicted on low-income Americans, the Ryan plan would do fairly little to reduce the nation's deficit.

Who would win under the Ryan Plan?

As Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, explains, the Ryan plan is for the rich, not the rest of us. As it cuts programs that serve low-income and middle class Americans, the Ryan plan would keep Bush-era tax cuts in place and further reduce top tax rates for high-end taxpayers and corporations.

"The supply-side mantra of tax cuts for the wealthy -- that core conservative (but deeply mistaken) belief that lower taxes for the top 1 percent of Americans will inevitably trickle down to the rest of us -- has left our nation indebted in ways that profoundly harmed our economy," Boushey writes. "Rep. Ryan's plan is supply-side economics on steroids."

Oregonians need to follow Governor Kitzhaber’s lead and speak out against the Ryan plan – its Medicaid block grants, its supply-side economics on steroids and the other misguided, harmful components.

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

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    Most of Medicaid goes to long term care for the sick, disabled, and middle class elderly patients. Is the GOP plan to empty the nursing homes and kick the patients to the curb? This won't fly, fortunately. And this budget plan which effectively ends Medicaid as a federal mandate, and Medicare will be hugely unpopular when it's understood.The CBO has already panned it and stated it will increase, not decrease, the deficit.

    What senior wants to give up the govt. guarantee of health care under Medicare in exchange for a partial subsidy to go find what you can find in the private corporate insurance market?

    The 2012 election has now been framed. It will be a vote to keep Medicare, Soc. Sec., and Medicaid alive or to kill them all.

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    Just remember, the Ryan plan is not a budget. Its a "cause."

    For what, exactly, I'm still not sure about. Perhaps the cause is to be insufferable jerks. Seriously, it appears that the GOP has decided to ratchet their soulless, craven corruption "up to eleven" as if they think it will fly in a general election.

    It won't. But- does it matter. Especially as we witnessed this past week in Wisconsin, when the county clerk was looking for her remote under the couch and just happened to "find" the necessary number of votes in favor of Judge Prosser to avoid a rematch. Pretty soon the idea of holding elections in a democratic society will be quaint reminders of bygone days...

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    I like that Kitzhaber is pushing significant reform for OHP even as he joins other governors in arguing against federal cuts.

    Kitzhaber, per the Lund Report:

    "We have an opportunity to be architects in this state of what that new delivery model looks like, or we can be victims of the budget balancing frenzy that will consume large and partisan proportions at our nation’s capitol"

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    I sell insurance to older Oregonians. If this block grant happens not only will you see MANY more people with cardboard signs begging on the street corners but you will see highly confused elders trying to shop for the best deal medically. They don't want to do that - they just want to stay with the docs they have.

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    Medicare and social security are the two most popular and universally supported government programs in our history. And the GOP plans to bring them to an end. It is now their official budget plan for 2012.

    According to recent data half of American citizens approaching will rely nearly exclusively on Soc. Sec. for their retirement income. Defined benefit retirement programs from business are pretty much a thing of the past. And the GOP wants seniors, the most active voting public to turn in their social security for a Wall St. 401K and to give up their Medicare card and guarantee of health care for partially subsidized coupon they can take to their insurance agent. Does anyone think that is going to sell? Seniors just need to find out how badly they are being tossed over a cliff to get angry and kick the GOP out of govt. The GOP wants to take our income and our health care and turn it over to Wall St. and corporate insurance industry. Do you need a reason to vote next election??

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    I guess they haven't paid attention to the consistent voting block that seniors and older citizens overwhelmingly tend to be.

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    Ryan's plan is nothing more than elimination of Medicare by a less threatening name.

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