Lawmakers began returning to Washington this week, where they face a backlog of unresolved issues and a policy agenda that puts Medicare at risk.
Before adjourning in December, Congress cleared a short-term spending bill that pushed contentious fiscal debates into early 2018. The result is a daunting to-do list this month, which includes the need to pass another temporary spending bill to keep the government open past January 19. Also on that list is a longer-term CHIP fix, full-year appropriations, DACA, a health care package, expiring Medicare policies, and additional disaster aid.
As congressional leaders and White House officials negotiate these priority items, Medicare Rights continues to strongly support inclusion of the BENES Act in the forthcoming legislation. Similarly, as lawmakers look to fund and extend important health and social services, we encourage them to seek responsible offsets that do not jeopardize funding for other critical programs, including Medicare.
Looking beyond the immediate legislative calendar, Medicare is likely to remain in the cross-hairs this year, as lawmakers pivot from taxes to “entitlement reform.” Last month, Congress passed and the President signed the tax bill and, as anticipated, legislation waiving its $25 billion in automatic cuts to Medicare. While we welcome this waiver, we remain concerned about the tax bill’s longer-term consequences.
By increasing deficits by $1.5 trillion over ten years, the tax bill paves the way for future, even steeper cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. As soon as this year, lawmakers are expected to use rising deficits as an excuse to pursue “entitlement reform”—seeking significant “savings” from programs like Medicare under the guise of deficit reduction.
The Senate reconvened yesterday. The House will be back in session on January 8.
This article made possible by generous support from the Retirement Research Foundation.