Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who is up for re-election in 2012, did not endorse a Republican proposal to increase the Medicare eligibility age and block grant the Medicaid program, Politico’s Matt DoBias notices. “Snowe was one of two GOP committee members who didn’t sign onto the Finance Committee Republican recommendations to the deficit supercommittee. The other was Jon Kyl of Arizona, and his absence was less notable because he’s a member of the debt panel”:
It was Snowe’s concerns over the potential for block grants, stricter Medicare enrollment requirements and possibility for cuts to Social Security benefits — and not the threat of repealing the reform law — that precluded her from signing onto the committee’s proposals.
“I spent a great deal of time reviewing the proposals and agree with many of them,” Snowe said in a written statement supplied by her office.
There were other areas of disagreement, too. Snowe wanted to require pharmaceutical companies to discount drugs used by some of Medicare’s costliest patients. Her Republican colleagues have been cool to idea.
Some of the committee’s health savings proposals are far from controversial and have been included in President Obama’s deficit reduction plan and the fiscal commission’s report. But the Medicare eligibility and Medicaid block grant restructuring are big stumbling blocks for election wary politicians because they are unpopular and face political opposition from within the Republican party. As Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) recently explained at the unveiling of the Republican Governors Association’s health policy report, “not all Republican governors may want a block grant. … It’s up to the states to decide.” Governors fear that converting the existing matching rate formula into a block grant would provide states with less money that they would have otherwise received and force local governments to cut eligibility to the program.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted over the summer also found that 72 percent of Americans oppose cutting Medicaid spending — including 59 percent of self-identified Republicans — and 54 percent are against raising the Medicare eligibility age.