Hours before the Senate welfare vote, which in effect cuts benefits to millions of poor American families by giving states block grants, House Speaker Newt Gingrinch suggested block granting the Medicaid program. Medicaid provides health care coverage for 36 million poor Americans, the vast majority of whom are single women with children. His proposal would eliminate a thirty year-old safety net which guarantees certain groups automatic health care coverage. Furthermore, block grants could give the states a vast amount of leeway to save on their current Medicaid spending, thus increasingly cutting back benefits to the poor. Destitute mothers and their children, who make up the majority of current recipients, stand to lose the most from these, in President Clinton’s words, “Draconian Cuts.”
G.O.P. leaders in the House also issued a 60-page report yesterday regarding the overhaul of Medicare. In discussing Medicare, G.O.P. leaders have announced that their plan would gradually double health insurance premiums for the elderly. Already, approximately fifteen percent of an elderly personÕs income goes towards health care. This plan would drive up that percentage thus causing grave financial and medical hardship for many elderly persons struggling with reduced social security benefits and increasing life spans. This negatively affects millions of Americans and it disproportionately harms women, who compromise the majority of the elderly population. And, because women receive significantly smaller pension payments and on average only 2/3rds of the amount men receive in Social Security payments, they also make up a disproportionate number of the elderly poor.