Senate Democrats introduced a measure Monday that would block Republicans from using the budget reconciliation process to privatize Medicare and make changes to Medicaid.
The amendment is meant to signal Democratic support for the bulwarks of the social safety net and to put Republicans in an awkward position if they oppose it. The amendment, if passed, would give rise to a point of order if Senate Republicans tried to use reconciliation – a process that just requires a simple majority vote in the Senate– to privatize Medicare.
Reconciliation was once considered a key way Republicans might make changes to Medicare. Immediately after Trump was elected, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) told reporters that he would like to use budget reconciliation to privatize Medicare. Many Republican senators eventually dismissed the idea saying that Congress had its hands full repealing Obamacare.
According to a press release sent by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who sponsored the amendment along with 17 other Senate Democrats, the legislation “would create a budget point of order to prevent changes to Medicare that raise the eligibility age, change eligibility requirements, or privatize and voucherize the program.”
Hirono’s amendment also would block Republican senators from making any “changes to Medicaid” including reducing “state funding from current levels.”
It’s expected Republicans will make changes to Medicaid when they repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provided funding to states that wanted to expand their Medicaid eligibility.
“For the past 50 years, seniors and working families have enjoyed the peace of mind of knowing that Medicare and Medicaid will be there for them,” Hirono said. “This budget resolution would dismantle these critical programs and our social safety net, resulting in too many families losing their health insurance. I will do everything in my power to protect these benefits for families in Hawaii and across the country.”