Cantor outlines $353B in Medicare, Medicaid savings during debt talks

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Monday outlined changes to Medicare and Medicaid he said would save $353 billion over the next decade. 

Cantor offered the ideas in talks at the White House. The suggestions were immediately criticized by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said they would lead to benefit cuts. 

GOP aides said Cantor was not offering a new proposal, but was outlining savings identified in talks led by Vice President Bide. Cantor was a participant in those talks. A Democrat aide characterized the proposal as Cantor's.

"Going into yesterday’s meeting, the President requested that Eric layout the framework of savings identified in the bipartisan Biden discussions.  The Medicare proposals that he outlined were identified in the Biden talks and discussed by the Vice President and the bipartisan participants in the talks as an area of potential savings.  It was by no means a new proposal, he was simply laying out savings identified in the Biden talks which had been under discussion for weeks," Cantor spokesperson Laena Fallon said.

President Obama and congressional leaders are set to meet again Tuesday afternoon at the White House.

The biggest savings from Cantor's outline, some $100 billion, comes from reforming federal matching payments for Medicaid. Pelosi has said she is “concerned” about changes to Medicaid but has only ruled out Medicare benefit cuts.

The brief description of the policy, and its projected savings, match roughly with President Obama's proposal to blend various Medicaid matching percentages into a single rate of federal support. Governors oppose the policy, saying it would shift costs to the states.

Most of the proposals in Cantor's presentation would not directly cut benefits, but rather would take money from states, doctors or other healthcare providers. The outline includes cuts in payments for imaging services such as MRIs, which Republicans in the Senate axed from a trade agreement recently.

Several changes, however, would raise costs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Cantor outlined $16 billion in savings by increasing Medicare co-payments for clinical laboratory tests, and another $50 billion from either reducing home health payments or increasing co-pays under Medicare.

Cantor would also means-test some Medicare benefits — a core component of the plan introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). High-income beneficiaries would pay 10 percent more of the cost of hospital stays and prescription drugs, which Cantor estimated would save the government $38 billion.

Up to $53 billion is saved from Medigap insurance by "prohibiting first dollar coverage or approx $530 supplemental premium for those who chose first dollar coverage.”

The leader estimates $26 billion can be saved by eliminating payments on Medicare's bad debt.

And he would take some money out of the healthcare reform law's fund for prevention and public health programs. The presentation says the government could save $8 billion by "not allowing the fund to grow."

This story was updated at 10:42 a.m.