Progressives have already homed in on Republican efforts to privatize Medicare as one of the major domestic political battles of 2017. If Donald J. Trump decides to gut the basic guarantee of Medicare and revamp its structure so that it hurts older and sicker people, Democrats must and will push back hard. But if Democrats focus too much of their attention on Medicare, they may inadvertently assist the quieter war on Medicaid — one that could deny health benefits to millions of children, seniors, working families and people with disabilities.
Of the two battles, the Republican effort to dismantle Medicaid is more certain. Neither Mr. Trump nor Senate Republicans may have the stomach to fully own the political risks of Medicare privatization. But not only have Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s choice for secretary of health and human services, made proposals to deeply cut Medicaid through arbitrary block grants or “per capita caps,” during the campaign, Mr. Trump has also proposed block grants.