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New Medicare Rights Analysis: What the Recent Budget Deal Means for People with Medicare

Congress recently passed and the President signed a sweeping spending bill that funds the government through March 23 and paves the way for a longer-term spending agreement. The legislation—the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123, BBA of 2018)—also contains a number of health care provisions important to people with Medicare and their families.

The Medicare Rights Center has analyzed the bill, with a focus on changes to Medicare and other programs serving older adults and people with disabilities that we support, those we oppose, and those we will be monitoring closely. Please click here for our full analysis, or go here for a one-page summary.

Among the provisions we support are the repeal of the Medicare Part B therapy caps, the accelerated closure of the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole,’ and the move to make Medicare coverage of speech generating devices permanent. These are significant policy shifts that will immediately improve the lives of people with Medicare, their families, and caregivers.

While we were pleased to see these and other important advances included in the budget deal, we do have concerns with other aspects of the legislation. In particular, to help pay for its funding and policy changes, the BBA of 2018 includes a number of offsetting provisions. Troublingly, one such pay-for is an increase in the Medicare Part B and D premiums some beneficiaries (individuals with annual incomes over $500,000 or $750,000 for couples) will have to pay beginning in 2019. We strongly oppose this increase, which further means tests the program and undermines the Medicare guarantee. Read more from Medicare Rights about this provision.

In addition, several of the Medicare Rights Center’s priorities were not included in the bill, namely the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S. 1909; H.R. 2575), and a five year extension (S.2227) of the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program. We urge lawmakers to address these priorities in the final FY18 spending deal expected later this month.

Next Steps

As previewed above and outlined in our full analysis, the budget deal makes an array of complex changes to federal health care programs. And as with any new piece of major legislation, it is not yet clear how the bill’s revisions will interact. Accordingly, the Medicare Rights Center will stay engaged with lawmakers and the administration to ensure these policies are implemented in a way that prioritizes older adults, people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers.

Most immediately—as appropriators work to finalize FY18 spending levels by March 23—the Medicare Rights Center will continue to advocate for adequate funding for programs important to people with Medicare, in particular the State Health Insurance Assistance (SHIP) program. We also urge Congress to extend MFP and strongly support the inclusion of the BENES Act in this upcoming package. Please join us in making this important ask! Click here to weigh in with your lawmakers today.

For more information on Medicare Rights’ advocacy around the final FY18 spending bill, please click here.

For more information on the BBA of 2018, please see the Medicare Rights Center’s comprehensive analysis and one-page summary.

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