Budget fight on health care cuts just beginning

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR | August 2, 2011 | 3:15 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Advocates for seniors, low-income people and the health care industry say they fear big cuts could result from a debt deal between President Barack Obama and Congress.

When it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, the deal raises more questions than it answers.

The giant health care programs that serve 100 million elderly, low-income and disabled Americans were spared from the first round of cuts. But everything's on the chopping block for a powerful new congressional committee that will scour the budget for savings.

And if that hunt leads to a dead end, the agreement decrees an automatic 2 percent cut to Medicare providers such as hospitals. That's on top of a 6 percent cut already enacted to finance Obama's health care law, which is just being phased in.