Republicans maneuver for cuts as shutdown looms

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 4 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

Spending on hundreds of domestic programs — the accounts at the heart of the talks to avoid a government shutdown — would be returned to levels in effect in 2008, at a savings of hundreds of billions of dollars.

One of the most significant changes would occur in Medicare, which provides health care for seniors, but would not affect current beneficiaries or workers age 55 and older.

Once eligible, they would receive Medicare coverage from private insurance companies that operate plans approved by the federal government. No details were available on what level of service would be assured, or how much financial support the government would provide.

At the same time, officials said Ryan intended to propose restoring at least some of the $129 billion in subsidies that Democrats cut a year ago from a private alternative to traditional Medicare that is already in existence.

The Obama administration and other critics maintained that payments to private insurers exceeded the government's cost for the traditional Medicare program.

The officials who described the recommendations did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to pre-empt a formal announcement.

Republicans intend to move quickly to advance their new blueprint. They hope to have the Budget Committee approve it Wednesday and push it through the House next week.

The plan is expected to serve as a rallying point for Republicans who took power in January, but it is also likely to give Democrats a ready target to attack.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has drawn attention in recent days to public opinion surveys reporting widespread skepticism about fundamental changes in Medicare.

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