Protecting Medicaid

The list of discouraging elements in the debt-ceiling agreement is plenty long, but there are a handful of provisions that help it from being a total disaster. Among them is the fact that the “trigger” cordons off Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare beneficiaries.

This came as something of a relief, especially given the Republican efforts to gut Medicaid, with drastic consequences for seniors and low-income families.

There are a few good behind-the-scenes accounts published today on how Sunday’s deal came together, but Politico‘s report included an interesting tidbit on this.

Progress was made, but the atmosphere was tense as the hours slipped toward the deadline. By Saturday night, discussions over the trigger had bogged down, and a call between McConnell’s staff and senior White House aides turned heated when GOP negotiators demanded that Medicaid be added to the mix of programs that could face cuts.

Gene Sperling, chairman of Obama’s National Economic Council, was in mid-sentence, trying to calmly explain why the White House wouldn’t allow that, when Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew interrupted.

“No!” the typically mild-mannered Lew yelled. “The answer is simply no! No, no!”

The White House didn’t draw enough lines in the sand, and in a few instances, didn’t stick to the lines in the sand even after they were drawn.

But at least in this case, the president’s team took a stand in support of Medicaid, and I’m glad. Given the likelihood with which the trigger will be pulled, this decision very likely made a huge difference in the health care needs of millions.