TERRE HAUTE —
U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon is warning that the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs are “unsustainable” at the present rate of growth in costs.
These two programs – along with other entitlement programs – are the biggest drivers of the U.S. federal debt, Bucshon told members of the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce on Thursday at the Idle Creek banquet center.
Medicare, Medicaid and other mandatory spending programs will, in the next 15 years, “overtake the entire spending of the U.S. federal government,” Bucshon said. “It is absolutely unsustainable. That’s the honest answer that I think government and people like me need to tell the American people.”
Bucshon, a first-term Republican representing Indiana’s 8th Congressional District, was elected in 2010 to fill the vacancy created when former Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth ran for the U.S. Senate.
Ellsworth lost that race to Republican Dan Coats.
Bucshon spoke to the Chamber audience of about 45 people concerning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A lot of uncertainty still surrounds much of the act, Bucshon said, leading to a reluctance among employers to hire new workers.
“One of the biggest impediments right now to getting people back to work in this country is the uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act,” Bucshon said. “Most businesses feel like it’s going to stymie job growth.”
Another impediment to hiring concerns the individual health insurance mandate that is part of the act, Bucshon said. That’s the part of the health care bill that requires individuals to purchase health insurance. The constitutionality of this provision is facing an eventual legal challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court and, Bucshon said, the resulting uncertainty is harming job creation.
“Up or down, I think the Supreme Court of the United States needs to expedite this decision and just tell us where we go from here,” he said.
Thursday’s Chamber lunch was sponsored by G.E. Aviation, a high-tech Terre Haute manufacturing business. G.E. Aviation makes parts for the F136 engine, which is an alternative power plant for the Joint Strike Fighter, the military’s new all-purpose fighter jet. Bucshon has been a big supporter of retaining federal funding for the alternative engine, said Kristie Sturgeon, Terre Haute plant leader for G.E. Aviation.
Last month, the Pentagon issued a “stop work” order to halt any additional government-funded manufacturing of the alternative engine. G.E. and Rolls-Royce, partners on the alternative engine project, elected to “self-fund” the engine’s development in the hope that federal funding for the engine program will be resumed.
“The fight definitely is not over,” Sturgeon said. G.E. Aviation has “100 percent faith” that the alternative engine will add cost-saving and quality-enhancing competition to the Joint Strike Fighter’s engine development, she said.
After his talk, Bucshon said it is important for him to meet with local employers, such as Terre Haute Chamber members.
“They are the people that are out there in the business community providing employment in their community,” he said. “I’ve met with a lot of these folks individually and toured some of their businesses, so I know where they are coming from.”
Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or email@example.com.