(CBS/AP) Medicare and Medicaid are on the chopping block in the budget plan put forward today by Republicans in Congress.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, said the plan for next year's budget would cut spending and restructure the government-funded health care programs for the elderly and the poor.
"This is the path to prosperity," Ryan said. "This is the budget that we are putting forward today. This represents our choice for our country's future, and it's our commitment to the American people."
In an op-ed in Tuesday's editions of The Wall Street Journal, Ryan estimated the proposed Republican budget would cut at $6.2 trillion over 10 years. And he said later in a nationally broadcast interview that lawmakers must find a way to come to grips with the financially ailing Medicaid and Medicare programs, which Ryan called "the drivers" of the federal debt.
The budget plan includes a controversial proposal to convert the traditional Medicare program for the aged into a system by which private insurers would operate plans approved by the federal government. Current Medicare beneficiaries or workers age 55 and older would stay in the existing system.
At the same time, Republicans propose to sharply cut projected spending on the Medicaid state-federal health program for the poor and disabled and transform it into a block grant program that gives governors far less money than under current estimates, but considerably more flexibility.
GOP officials requiring anonymity to discuss the budget before its release Tuesday said more than $1 trillion in savings would come from Medicaid.
The GOP's decade-long plan far exceeds the $1 trillion-plus reduction outlined in Obama's February budget plan and is on par with recommendations released by Obama's own bipartisan deficit commission in December.