Not so fast: Some Republicans reluctant to pursue Medicare cuts in 2018

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Some Senate Republicans are expressing skepticism about cutting spending on social programs — Medicare included — in the months leading up to the 2018 elections.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the Senate's third-highest ranking Republican, said Congress should consider reducing long-term spending on those federal programs next year. But others told the Washington Post that they are wary of taking on the popular healthcare program that primarily insures the elderly.

The Post said it heard from at least 12 Republicans hesitant to make major cuts that could affect voters.

Among them was Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) who said, “We're talking about Medicare, and that's a pretty big bite in the middle of an election year. I'm not saying no, but there are other things that could happen.”

Thinking like that might undermine Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's (R-WI) earlier pronouncement that he plans to target social programs next year.

Forbes blogger Bob Blancato maintains that big Medicare and Medicare cuts are likely, and would be harmful.

In an article Tuesday, Blancato explained that without enough economic growth to offset the loss of revenue from proposed tax cuts, government spending would have to be reduced drastically due to what's known in Washington policy circles as “paygo.”  If growth fails to occur, deep cuts to Medicare or other programs will be required, and outright elimination of some programs is possible.

As Blancato, an elder justice advocate, wrote: “While some Republicans have said that the first cuts would only directly affect doctors, hospitals and other health providers, it is an absolute myth to believe that they won't impact beneficiaries — Americans 65 and older — very directly.”