Need a quick refresher? To sum it up, the Congressional bi-partisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 in August, was tasked with proposing at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years. The Supercommittee received thousands of recommendations and letters from various stakeholders, but the process has been very hush-hush.
Well, Politico reported yesterday that the Supercommittee failed. Specifically, they failed to produce an agreement that 7 of the 12 members of the committee could approve and submit to Congress.
So, what does all this mean?
Now we move into a process called sequestration, where, starting January 2013, automatic cuts to a wide-range of discretionary spending programs (both defense and non-defense programs), including some that serve low-income individuals, will take place. That sounds and is pretty bad, but Congress could pass legislation before then to change the rules of this process. President Obama, though, announced his intention to veto any legislation that creates an easy “off-ramp” from this process.
This presents a great challenge, but also a great opportunity.
Under the agreement that created the Supercommittee, mandatory safety net programs, programs like Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps are exempt from across-the-board cuts. However, Politico reminds us Medicare and Medicaid are likely not off the table for future deficit negotiations. Also under sequestration, other safety net programs, like Head Start (a federal pre-school program for low-income families), are subject to across-the-board cuts as is payment to Medicare service providers. These service provider cuts could discourage health care providers’ participation in Medicare and potentially lead to worse health outcomes for enrollees.
However, NLIRH and other stakeholders now have this 13-month opportunity to continue to inform the policy debates and ensure the lifelines to our communities remain untouched from budgetary cuts or undermining reforms.
What is the take away from all this? Our friends at National Women’s Law Center remind us that no deal is better than a bad deal, and there were plenty of bad deals proposed that would have undermined Medicaid and other program’s ability to serve our communities.
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health will continue to advocate for the important social programs that greatly benefit Latinas, their families and their communities.
We will keep you posted on this process as it unfolds.