From ............... Associated Press

September 20, 1995

Clinton Rips GOP Medicaid Plan

DENVER (AP) -- President Clinton asserted Wednesday that a Republican plan to cut Medicaid could "throw families into abject insecurity" and drain middle-class households of savings needed to send children to college.

He painted the bleak picture at a Roman Catholic nursing home as he brought his campaign warmup to the West, a region where he remains unpopular.

Fine-tuning his message and fattening his bankroll, Clinton focused on Medicaid -- the nation's health-care program for the poor -- and education in escalating attacks on Republican proposals.

He has been concentrating on several issues a day in a weeklong, coast-to-coast swing that combines $1,000-a-plate fund-raising dinners with Republican-bashing speeches. He was expected to raise $5 million at dinners here and in four other cities.

"We can balance the budget, cut taxes for middle-class people and still increase our investment in education," he told students at Pueblo Community College, about 100 miles to the south. He assailed GOP plans to trim federal student loan programs.

But Clinton's main focus for the day was GOP Medicaid cuts, following similar attacks the day before on GOP Medicare cuts in talks to senior citizens in southern Florida.

Speaking to an audience of nursing home patients, their families and Roman Catholic nuns, Clinton said:

"It is important to remember that every period of change is a challenge, in my mind, issued ultimately by God, to make the adjustments we need to make change our friend while remaining true to our basic values."

Clinton spoke in a heated tent to an audience of several hundred on the grounds of the 78-year-old Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home. Many were in wheelchairs, bundled up in heavy clothes and blankets to ward off the chill and drizzle.

In particular, he criticized this week's GOP Medicaid blueprint to squeeze $182 billion in savings from the program over seven years and reduce its growth rate from 10 percent a year to 4 percent.

The House GOP plan would end federal entitlements for the poor and scrap federal rules directing whom states must cover and what benefits they must offer.

"The congressional proposal endangers the Medicaid program that makes it possible for places like this wonderful home to exist," Clinton said.

The Little Sisters home relies on charity for much of its expenses, but Medicaid payments are also an important part of its financing.

Clinton said the growth of Medicaid spending must be slowed, but not by as much as Republicans want. "We don't have to wreck the program and throw families into abject insecurity to balance the budget,"he said.

Clinton is asserting that the proposed Medicaid cuts, together with GOP proposals for $270 billion in Medicare savings over seven years, would result in a back-door tax increase for middle-income Americans with ailing parents or grandparents.

"Medicaid does a lot of good for the senior citizens of this country," he said. Under the new dynamics in Washington, with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, "it isn't fashionable anymore to speak up for the poor," he said.

Clinton was flying later Wednesday to California -- his 20th visit to a state crucial to his re-election effort.