As has been widely reported, the bipartisan group of Senators known as the “Gang of Six” today unveiled a long awaited framework to reduce the nation’s projected debt by $3.7 trillion over ten years. The plan presented by the group — which includes Democrats Conrad (ND), Durbin (IL), and Warner (VA) and Republicans Chambliss (GA), Coburn (OK), and Crapo (WY) — received positive comments from President Obama and from many Senators, including Republicans, who were briefed on the plan earlier today.
According to documents describing the plan, the savings would come in two legislative steps: an initial bill containing a $500 billion “down payment” that would, among other provisions, include repeal of the CLASS program, the long-term care insurance program created under the Affordable Care Act; and a second larger bill that would save an additional $3.2 trillion, including $758 billion in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid (but not Social Security, which is handled separately).
The group’s plan largely omits specifics on how to achieve these savings, leaving the choices up to the various Senate committees with fallback provisions in case committees do not report out legislation. The initial down payment legislation would also include provisions to expedite Senate consideration of the larger second bill.
The plan would fully fund reform or replacement of Medicare’s Sustainable Grow Rate (SGR) formula for paying the program’s physicians, which has mandated annual cuts in physican compensation that Congress has repeatedly postponed. Starting in 2020, it would also seek to hold the per-beneficiary growth in federal health spending to the growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) plus one percentage point.
It is still unclear what role the new plan will play in achieving a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline to avoid default. House Republicans may balk at portions of the plan, including provisions to raise new revenue.