Federal Budget Battles Again Focus on Medicare, Medicaid

MAY 13, 1996 VOLUME 3, NUMBER 46

Now that the Federal government has finally adopted a budget for the current year (more than half-way through the year itself), Congress and the President are turning their attention to the 1996-1997 budget year. Both the Clinton Administration and Republican Congressional leaders have developed proposals which aim to balance the budget by 2002, though they disagree on almost every element of how to reach that goal.

Nonetheless, several themes are common between the two disparate proposals. In the next six years, both approaches aim to save over $100 billion in Medicare expenditures. Each plan proposes savings of about half as much from Medicaid and a third more from other welfare programs. Defense and other cuts will about equal the cuts in all medical and welfare programs under both sets of proposals.

One big difference: Republicans also propose a tax cut of over $100 billion, while President Clinton’s tax cut would amount to only about $6 billion (though the administration disputes this calculation and insists that his tax cut would total $30 billion).

The real issue, however, is not how much the current proposals differ from one another. This year’s offering from the Administration is essentially similar to last year’s final offer to the Republicans. Congress, on the other hand, has dramatically reduced the size of the proposed tax increase, while also paring back expenditure reductions (especially in Medicare). (Still, the Medicare program is tagged with responsibility for nearly a third of all savings by Congress.)

What has changed in the Republican agenda? Conventional wisdom holds that the Presidential tactic of painting Republicans as enemies of the elderly and friends of the undeserving wealthy was a major political success. In this election year, the rhetoric is expected to be more vigorous and the product less certain.

PCOA and Local Attorneys Start Legal Clinic

The Pima Council on Aging (PCOA) and the Arizona Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) last month announced the institution of a new service for Pima County seniors. Local NAELA members have volunteered to staff an “information-only” legal clinic at PCOA’s offices every two weeks through the summer.

The legal advice clinic will match one elder law attorney with seven or eight clients for half-hour sessions. Scheduling is being handled by PCOA; callers are being screened to see if they can be helped to utilize other resources already available in the community.

Only clients over age 60 will be eligible for assistance from the legal clinic. Interested elders can contact PCOA at 790-7262 to inquire about the availability of appointments.

The clinic will not provide full legal representation. Elders who require representation in court, or continuing legal assistance, will be advised of their needs and directed to available resources. Those requiring only legal explanations and advice, however, will be able to get that help from the volunteer lawyers.

While the clinic will not charge participants for the legal advice, a donation of $15 to PCOA is suggested. Donations will help defray the cost of staff and office time incurred by PCOA; the participating attorneys will not receive any fees.

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