The Senate voted early Friday morning to approve a two-year budget deal intended to spook years of gridlock and frequent scares of government shutdowns.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the agreement [pumpkin] patched by the White House and congressional leaders.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 extends the nation's debt limit through 2017 and mummifies spending levels through September of that year to keep things under wraps. It also lifts the spirits of ghostly spending caps set in place in 2011, providing for $80 billion in sequester relief.
The agreement includes long-term entitlement comebacks to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program — the first major boo-merang to Social Security since 1983 — and frightens a spike in Medicare B premiums for millions of seniors.
Once signed, 15 million older Americans will face a Part B premium increase of roughly 17 percent opposed to the projected 52 percent, easing pain in the neck for beneficiaries.
It's all grave-y for “held harmless” Medicare beneficiaries, as they will not see an increase in their Medicare Part B premiums due to a provision of federal law that draws blood for premiums from Social Security benefits.
The Part B deductible, which covers costs if Medicare beneficiaries are coffin and need to see a doctor, will rise to $167 rather than the $223 proposed.
To cover the cost of moderating the Medicare Part B premium increase, the U.S. Treasury will lend money to the Medicare blood bank.
To repay the loan, beneficiaries will pay a premium surcharge of three bones each month over about five years until 2021.
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Sources: www.nbcnews.com, www.washingtonpost.com
Medicare Blog | Medicare News | Medicare Information
In hopes of a TKO in projected Medicare Part B premium increases for the coming year, congressional leaders and the White House have wrapped up their hands, thrown on their gloves, and forged a tentative budget agreement to go toe-to-toe with the pressing issue.
Under current law nearly 15 million Medicare beneficiaries, who do not collect Social Security and will be enrolling in Medicare’s Part B next year for the first time, either have incomes great enough that they are charged higher premiums, or are poor enough that they also qualify for Medicaid, are about to be sucker punched with an increase of more than 50 percent in their standard monthly Medicare Part B premiums.
If Congress throws in the towel at the main event and agrees on the tentative budget agreement, those 15 million older Americans will face a Part B premium increase of roughly 17 percent opposed to the projected 52 percent.
“Held harmless” Medicare beneficiaries will not see an increase in their Medicare Part B premiums due to a provision of federal law that links premiums to Social Security benefits.
Also, the Part B deductible, which affects all Medicare beneficiaries, will rise to $167 rather than the $223 proposed.
To cover the cost of moderating the Medicare Part B premium increase, the U.S. Treasury will lend money to the Medicare trust fund.
To repay the loan beneficiaries will pay a $3 premium surcharge each month over about five years until 2021.
On Tuesday AARP praised the agreement and urged Congress to adopt it rather than face the brawl.
We'll keep you up-to-date with coverage on Congress’s response to the open invitation.
| Efforts to replace the Medicare physician payment formula for this year have all but been scrapped. Lawmakers have refocused their efforts and the new deadline for the doctors’ payment formula is 2014.
In a rare bipartisan, bicameral approach the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means committees are to vote next week on a proposal that would repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate and formulate a new payment method for doctors and hospitals that treat Medicare patients.
The committee votes comes at the heels before Congress leaves town for the year and Capitol Hill is in a rush for a “quick patch” to prevent a 20.1 percent cut due in January to the current payment formula. I a short-term patch is not passed, Medicare could be put on hold until an quick fix is reached.
Earlier this year there was a major push to send the proposal to the president’s desk before year-end and eliminate the massive budget cuts that followed. Current goals have changed in both political parties and are working in an effort to pass the legislation in the committees this year and the Senate and the House in 2014.
In spite the effort to move the payment proposal forward, it is running into some resistance over policy and payment. Lawmakers and aids are in turmoil on how to approach Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), said Rep. Jim McDermott, top Democrat on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee and a physician. Pessimism on getting the formula repealed due to dispute over how to pay for it is also high.
“I don’t think they’re going to get a permanent fix,” he said. Republicans “won’t talk real revenues. They’re talking about taking it out of the hides of old people, and that’s not going to happen.”
Adding into the challenge of policy making, The House Republican Doctors Caucus is coming up with their plan, similar to other proposals. The House leaders know that gaining broader support and approval for the SGR replacement plan could be harder if it is not accepted by the GOP Doctors, said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), co-chairman of the caucus. “The other members are going to say if the doctors aren’t for it; I’m not for it,” he said.
For years, Members of the Senate Finance, Ways and Means and House Energy and Commerce committees have wanted to repeal the Medicare formula, but there was no real support for the change. That’s because there was no real alternative system in place and repeal was estimated to cost $300 billion or more.
This year the effort got revitalized when the Congressional Budget Office scored repeal at $139 billion and consensus began to form around a replacement plan.
A repeal bill was unanimously passed this summer by The Energy and Commerce Committee and in October, the top Republicans and Democrats on the Finance and Ways and Means committees released a joint proposal will go before Finance on Dec. 12 and is estimated around the $200 billion.
But all focus remains on the “quick patch” for the impending cut and long-term goal of repealing the formula once and for all.
A three-month patch is sought by several leaders on Finance and Ways and Means and physicians. This would force lawmaker to vote for a new SGR bill, keep the cost down and finalize permanent repeal instead of repeat the entire cycle again.
Others would like to prolong the patch as long as they can afford it giving them time to fix the most controversial element of the patch, the payment method, including House Republican leaders, Roe said.
Providers wouldn’t be given too much stability with a short-term patch. The worst that can happen is after Congress did a quick fix, they would fail to reform the payment method.
In either case, this is a very important time, this opportunity for permanent reform should not be left to pass or “let it slip away,” said Bob Doherty, American College of Physicians lobbyist.
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Question: Should the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means committees’ vote for “quick patch” to prevent a 20.1 percent cut due in January, or should go past 2013 and focus on getting the current payment formula reformed?