Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trade Package Moves with Medicare Sequester Extension

Drew Thies 
The House Ways and Means Committee voted Thursday to advance trade promotion and assistance bills which include an extension and expansion to Medicare payments. The offset is used to pay for a renewal of health insurance coverage for workers affected by the trade deal.

The measure cleared the committee by voice vote. The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday evening advanced a similar trade bill package, with the same Medicare sequester offset after an amendment from Mark Warner, D-VA., removing the sequester provision, was withdrawn from consideration.

On Tuesday, the American Health Care Association along with other provider groups sent a letter to the House and Senate, criticizing the surprise addition of the offset extension and urged its removal from the bill.

House committee chief, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., indicated the final measure could find a less objectionable offset source. The trade package has not yet been voted on in the full House.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the sequester extension provides $700 million in funding.

Sequestration spending cuts mandated by a 2011 budget agreement included a two percent cut in Medicare provider payments, which extended through the ten year period of the budget pact. However, the aging of the 10-year budget window offers an opportunity to extend the sequestration savings. Several Medicare bills have been funded by an extension of the sequester past its original 2021 end date. The current end date is 2024.

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