Douglas says Medicaid in more trouble than Social Security

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he supports President Bush’s plan to create private investment accounts within the Social Security system. But Douglas says he considers reforming the Medicaid program to be a more pressing issue.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Douglas says President Bush deserves a lot of credit for discussing possible changes to Social Security to help place the system on a stronger financial foundation. The governor’s position is in sharp contrast to the three members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Senators Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords and Congressman Bernie Sanders oppose the president’s plan to allow younger workers to invest as much as four percent of their Social Security taxes in a private account. They argue the proposal will significantly increase the federal budget deficit and will do little to stabilize the Social Security system.

Bush says this issue needs immediate attention. Sanders disagrees:

(Sanders) “Despite what the president says, despite what many in the media say, despite what the Republican leadership says, Social Security is not – underline not – in crisis. It is not going bankrupt. That it total absolute malarkey!”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he supports the private accounts plan and he acknowledges that there are some important questions concerning the implementation of the proposal:

(Douglas) “So using a portion of Social Security funds for a personal account, I think, makes sense. Now, there are some issues in terms of the transition – how we get from the current situation to one that would accommodate those personal accounts. They’re still some hurdles to overcome.”

(Kinzel) But the governor says he’d rather see the president highlight the fiscal problems with the Medicaid program because that’s a more pressing issue for many states:

(Douglas) “The Medicaid problem affects next year’s state fiscal year budget in an very substantial way, and the trend line over the next five years is so troubling that we need to reform it right now. The Social Security problem is real but it’s over a longer and more extensive period of time. So the urgency is much greater for Medicaid reform.”

(Douglas) Sanders will be holding Town Meetings on the Social Security issue on Saturday in Montpelier, South Burlington and St. Albans.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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