Harkin's fiscal cliff warning: Protect Medicaid, Medicare

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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is the chairman of the Labor, Health, and Education subcommittee
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is the chairman of the Labor, Health, and Education subcommittee

As top Democrats and Republican attempted to deal with an impending fiscal cliff, they were given a strong rebuke by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA): Don't ruin two critical safety net programs that seniors depend on.

More specifically, he said fellow legislators need to, “Keep your hands off Medicaid, and keep your hands of Medicare.” 

Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, joined fellow Democrats and other like-minded leaders to urge protection of the social health programs.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health observed, “Medicaid is an easy target. Most people don't know what it is, and those who do know don't care. We get nervous when we hear about secret meetings [between the president and House negotiators] … and I feel no obligation to vote for a bad deal just to be able to get Republican votes.”

Republicans saw budget negotiations as an opportunity to put social programs under the microscope, and perhaps under the knife. Any cuts to Medicaid could damage the Affordable Care Act, which calls for expanding the program with the federal government picking up much of the tab. States may choose not to increase the program. 

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