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The Medicare Budget Cuts No One Likes

Just in case the Obama administration didn’t know it already, cutting Medicare is hard to do.

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday on President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget, both Republicans who have sought major changes to entitlements, and Democrats, who have vowed to preserve the programs,  expressed misgivings.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., accused the administration of taking a “Lizzie Borden whack” at critical access hospitals, which provide basic emergency and inpatient care in rural areas. Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Bill Nelson of Florida and Robert Menendez of New Jersey objected to cuts in graduate medical education, saying they would hurt local hospitals and reduce the number of physicians who could be trained to treat the millions of Americans expected to gain coverage under the 2010 health law. Graduate medical education funding cuts would undermine “the very essence of the goals of the [Affordable Care Act],” Menendez said.

Even committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., when he wasn’t grilling Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the health law’s implementation, expressed concern about cuts to nursing homes, saying that they “may be too high and reduce access to care.”

Obama’s budget proposal follows his efforts to craft a “grand bargain” with Republican lawmakers that would cut entitlements and raise revenues to steady the federal budget. The comments at the hearing, however, suggest that he may have a way to go to persuade lawmakers.

This article was produced by Kaiser Health News with support from The SCAN Foundation.