By Marley Gibbons
Friday, August 5, 2011
Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security were spared immediate cuts in this week's deal to raise the government's borrowing limit. But long-term threats are seen to the programs women disproportionately depend on.
The first round of $900 billion cuts spread over six months were offered to Republicans in a bargain for raising the borrowing limit and averting a federal default.
These first-round cuts will target so-called discretionary federal spending, which includes the military budget, estimated at $700 billion in 2011 by the Office of Management and Budget in Washington.
But it will also likely reduce federal programs such as Title X, which funds family planning clinics, child care programs, breast cancer research, K-12 education, job training and food stamp programs.
These are programs that overwhelmingly employ and serve women, especially women of color, The National Organization for Women said in an Aug. 1 statement condemning the vote.
Danielle Ewen, director of child care and early education policy expertise at the Washington-based Center for Law and Social Policy, was among those who criticized the bill's lack of attention to unemployment or job creation.
Ewen's anti-poverty organization is focused on developing job opportunities for low-income families so children grow up in stable homes with employed parents. "You can't do that by cutting back on the supports families need to get the credentials they need to survive in this economy," said Ewen.
Medicaid, the federal program providing health care coverage for low-income Americans, is protected both from first-round cuts and from automatic cuts, but the bill does allow the super-committee to make cuts there.
Fifty-four percent of non-elderly Medicaid recipients are women, according to a 2009 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Cuts to Medicaid would make eligibility rules more strict and reduce access to services for recipients, said an Aug. 1 report by the National Women's Law Center.
Deep Medicaid cuts could bite into the 2014 phase of the Affordable Care Act, or health reform, which is expected to extend Medicaid coverage to 50 percent of the 19 million Americans currently uninsured. Cuts to Medicaid funding could disrupt that.
Joan Entmacher, vice president and director of family economic security at the National Women's Law Center, criticized the deal for not raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
"When it comes to the people with the greatest ability to pay . . . there's no sacrifice in this deal. Hedge fund managers come out just fine," she said.
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Marley Gibbons is an editorial intern at Women's eNews.
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