Top Budget Republicans demand presidential action on Medicare

The top Republicans on the House and Senate budget committees demanded Tuesday that President Obama submit a proposal to shore up Medicare, which they say is required by law.

"Given the severity of this problem and your legal obligations, the nation needs leadership on this issue," says the letter from Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanPelosi: 'Of course' Dems can be against abortion Five fights for Trump’s first year Sunday shows preview: Trump stares down 100-day mark MORE (R-Wis.) and Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsDem lawmaker to Sessions: 'You are a racist and a liar' Top Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms DNC chairman slams Sessions for deportation comments MORE (R-Ala.). "Therefore, we reasonably expect your administration to submit a detailed legislative proposal to Congress addressing the Medicare funding warning as required by law."

ADVERTISEMENT
The lawmakers point to a provision in the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act that directs the administration to address the program's solvency when the Medicare Trustees trigger a funding warning, which they did last month for the sixth year in a row. Under the law, the administration has 15 days after submitting the president's budget to Congress to propose solutions to Medicare's fiscal imbalance.

"Your administration has not provided a response to the annual Medicare trigger, ignoring the law in each of the past three years," the lawmakers wrote. "This year your budget did not even acknowledge the existence of the Medicare funding warning."

Ryan had already raised those concerns back in March, after the president unveiled a budget proposal that didn't offer a Medicare plan.

"It is incumbent upon the president to explain why he not only ignored Medicare's insolvency in his own budget proposal, but why he also ignored the law today," Ryan said then. "Seniors, working families, and future generations can longer afford such irresponsible leadership."

At the time, the administration said that it considers the statute to be "advisory and not binding."

"The President has already enacted the Affordable Care Act, which significantly strengthens the life of the Medicare Trust Fund and he's proposed a framework that would do even more to make Medicare even stronger," an administration official told The Hill via e-mail Tuesday. "Additionally, President Bush questioned the constitutionality of requiring the President to submit a separate legislative proposal. We are committed to strengthening Medicare, we’ve taken concrete steps to achieve that goal, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress on this important matter."

The GOP has latched on to the latest projections from the Medicare Trustees, which found that the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund will be insolvent by 2024, to argue that Democrats are failing to meet their obligations to future seniors. House Republicans have proposed a plan to replace Medicare with subsidies for beneficiaries to buy private insurance starting in 2022.

Democrats counter that their healthcare reform law added eight years to the program's solvency and that there's time to get it on a solid fiscal path without a complete overhaul.

This post was updated at 5 p.m. with a statement from the administration