One of the most bizarre developments in the debate over the Republican health-care plan has been the surge of politicians and pundits taking to the airwaves and social media to declare that the GOP's Obamacare rollback, which cuts roughly $800 billion in Medicaid spending over the next 10 years, does not actually cut Medicaid.
“These are not cuts to Medicaid,” White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told ABC News on Sunday.
“There are NO Medicaid cuts in GOP reforms,” Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, tweeted Monday. His argument? Medicaid spending will still increase under the GOP health plan. It will simply do so more slowly than under the current law.
“In Washington, spending always goes up,” Fleisher said. “It's just a matter of now much.”
It's precisely for that reason that when people in Washington talk about spending cuts and increases, they usually talk about them relative to current law. Spending “always goes up” in Washington in part because of this little thing called inflation — as prices go up, government spending has to increase, too, just to keep up.
Fortunately, the Congressional Budget Office's scorecard of the bill has been released to help clarify the waters that GOP allies are so diligently muddying. That report is crystal clear: Between now and 2026, the GOP Senate health-care plan would carve out “a reduction of $772 billion in federal outlays for Medicaid.”
Recall, if you will, that “a reduction in federal outlays” is fed-speak for “a cut.”
The CBO also included a handy chart of the difference between Medicaid spending under the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid spending under the Senate Republicans' health-care plan. Here's what that looks like.
See that gap between the two lines? That's Cutsville, U.S.A., population $772 billion. By 2026, if the Republican plan is signed into law, the CBO estimates that the federal government would be spending something like $150 billion a year less on Medicaid than it would under Obamacare.
In discussing the bill's impact on the federal budget, the CBO puts that Medicaid cut front and center. “The largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid — spending on the program would decline in 2026 by 26 percent in comparison with what CBO projects under current law,” the report states in the very first bullet point under “Effects on the federal budget.”
To recap: It's a cut.