GOP senator expected to release budget leaving Medicare alone

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is expected to unveil a budget blueprint Tuesday that leaves Medicare alone, the strongest signal yet that Senate Republicans have no intention of duplicating an ambitious — and controversial — overhaul put forward by the House GOP.

However, the plan being offered the Senate Budget Committee member does retain the House's proposal to transform Medicaid into a block-grant program, according to a summary obtained by The Hill.

Toomey’s blueprint also repeals Democrats' healthcare reform law while retaining its Medicare cuts and mandates changes to state medical malpractice laws that aim to save the federal government about $64 billion.

A Toomey spokesman declined to comment before the senator announces his budget on Tuesday. The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected this month to vote on — and reject — the House GOP budget, which would replace Medicare with subsidies for private insurance starting in 2022.

That idea has come under increasing criticism that it would shift medical costs to seniors while doing little or nothing to control healthcare inflation. House members have shown signs of abandoning their proposal over the past month, and last week Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said he did not plan to bring up such legislation if it's not going to move in the Senate.

The Toomey budget, according to the summary, would also repeal the Medicare physician payment formula, known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), but would freeze physician reimbursements. It also reduces Medicaid spending between 2016 and 2020, so that spending in 2020 would be $14 billion below 2008 levels; after 2020, the federal government's contribution to Medicaid would grow in sync with the growth in population and general inflation.

Also, Toomey is expected to propose saving $60 billion by ending the practice of reimbursing hospitals for unpaid Medicare deductibles and co-payments, as recommended by President Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission.