CBS News/Associated Press, August 2, 2011
When it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, the debt deal raises more questions than it answers. The giant health care programs serving some 100 million elderly, low-income and disabled Americans were spared from the first round of cuts in the agreement between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders. But everything's on the chopping block for a powerful new congressional committee that will be created under the deal to scour the budget for savings. And if that hunt leads to a dead end, the agreement decrees an automatic 2% cut to Medicare providers such as hospitals. That's on top of a 6% cut already enacted to finance Obama's health care law, which is just being phased in. "The story isn't over," said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a New York-based advocacy group. "The future of the programs really hangs in the balance. It could lead to deep cuts and irreversible changes to Medicare and Medicaid that shift costs to beneficiaries."