The Debt Ceiling is Raised, but Disability Related Programs Remain at Risk as the Budget Battle Continues
Posted on August 03, 2011 by Megan Burke
The Budget Control Act of 2011was signed into law by President Obama on Aug. 2nd just in time to meet the debt ceiling deadline. The bill was passed by the House (269-161) and the Senate (74-26). It allows the President to raise the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion putting off any future debt ceiling debates until 2013. It also cuts about $2.4 trillion over ten years from discretionary spending (domestic and defense).
The plan put forth to reduce the deficit is really a mixed bag. The good news is that Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare were not included in the first round of cuts. The frustrating news is that there were no options for raising revenue. There will be $1 trillion in savings from spending caps placed on discretionary spending. While there are exemptions for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the down side is that other programs which provide support for people with disabilities such as affordable housing, education, rehabilitation services, and IL funding will see cuts.
In phase two, a special congressional committee will be appointed to develop a plan to reduce the deficit by up to $1.5 trillion. This is where Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security will be in danger in addition to other programs people with disabilities depend on for support, and we as advocates will need to remain active. The committee will begin their work after Labor Day and is supposed to present legislation to Congress by the end of November with Congress voting on the legislation by the end of December. Here are five possible cuts the committee could make to Medicaid and Medicare. Anything is fair game at this point.
If Congress does not pass a deficit reduction plan by the end of December, across-the-board caps will be instituted. Social Security and Medicaid will be exempt from those caps, but Medicare could sustain a cap reducing spending up to 2%. The reduced spending in Medicare will fall on providers and not directly on participants of the program.
In summary, an agreement was reached so the debt ceiling can be raised, but the budget battle continues. As advocates we will need to continue our work to save important programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, affordable housing, CIL funding, rehabilitation services, employment services, etc. Speaker Boehner has already said he is appointing members to the committee who pledge to rule out any revenue options. Now more than ever, we must call for a balanced approach to reducing the deficit. The budget cannot be balanced on the backs of low-income individuals, people with disabilities, children, etc. While there is a debate as to whether or not the committee can “raise taxes”, it is explicit that they can and should consider revenue options in addition to spending cuts.
View the White House’s fact sheet on the debt deal here.