With lots of fanfare and political chest thumping, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his highly anticipated and controversial Republican budget plan. The takeaway from the start: it dramatically slashes and burns Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and federal financial aid.
The House Budget Committee Chairman’s budget proposal offers a stark contrast to President Obama’s plan by producing $3.1 trillion in deficits over the next decade – which is a little less than half as much as President Obama’s budget plan.
Essentially, the budget gives Republicans an opportunity to say they are cutting spending and working on reducing the deficit. It will become a rallying cry for the GOP on the campaign trail throughout the summer and the fall, especially the part where elimination of “Obamacare” or the Affordable Care Act is the most aggressive. Even though there is little chance that the proposal would ever be enacted, particularly with a Democratic-controlled Senate waiting to block it, it will still be the political juice to power the conservative base.
While we’re on it, let’s take a good look at how the Ryan Budget would affect Black and Latino communities.
1. Medicaid Takes a Big Hit
Ryan’s budget ends the coverage expansion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). When this happens, 30 million people who are supposed to have insurance (about half would be getting coverage from Medicaid) in 2014 when the ACA goes into full effect won’t have it. Not only does the ACA expansion go away, thus turning Medicaid into a block grant, the federal government could no longer guarantee coverage for people who meet specific requirements. Individual states would be left to figure out how to spend the block grant money.
In Black and Latino communities, more than one in four people rely on Medicaid for health coverage. Blacks and Latinos are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes and certain cancers. Cutting Medicaid as part of a deficit reduction plan would leave seriously ill people in a bind without the means to seek care.
But, Mr. Ryan, touting the experiences of his Irish immigrant family when they arrived in America, believes a bit of boot strap philosophy should do the trick.
2. Elders Health Coverage is At Risk
The Medicare proposal of the Ryan budget allows seniors to opt out of Medicare and instead receive vouchers to purchase private insurance. This voucher program would not guarantee the same benefits and would eventually gut the Medicare program, as those seniors who may have more health problems remain in the program while the healthier seniors leave. Additionally, Ryan’s plan gradually increases the eligibility age of Medicare to 67.
In about 12 years, racial and ethnic minorities will more than double as a share of the elderly population. Low-income Latino and Black seniors tend to pay more for health care than Whites in private fee for service plans. Medicare has played a key role in expanding access to care for Latinos and Blacks; altering a program that works and replacing it with something that won’t necessarily contain costs will leave the elders at risk.
3. Kiss that Pell Grant Goodbye
Ryan says that he wants to only give Pell Grants to those college students who are “truly needy.” Almost three quarters of Pell Grant recipients in 2011 had family incomes of $30,000 or less.
Many Black and Latino college students rely on Pell Grants to attend college. Young people from working and middle class families may be forced to rely more on loans or could be discouraged from attending college altogether. For lower income families, cost is usually the biggest barrier in access to higher education.
4. Food Stamp Program Gets Eliminated
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) turns into a block grant in the Ryan proposal. Additionally, $122 billion is cut from the program. This leaves the most vulnerable and hungry Americans in limbo, as states would have to figure out how to spend the money and administer these kinds of programs. Some states may not have the infrastructure to implement a food assistance program on the fly, especially with drastic state budget issues in recent years.
Nationally, Blacks and Latinos make up 33% and 22%, respectively, of SNAP participants. These communities have been among the hardest hit by recession, and access to healthy meals has become more crucial. Taking away this program will leave many Black and Brown folks malnourished.