Early in the morning of February 9, Congress passed a two-year budget agreement which President Trump signed into law. Congress reached a deal on a new budget which will have many effects on Medicare.
Here are some of the changes that will come with the new deal:
- Relief for those in the Medicare Part Donut Hole (coverage gap) in 2019 (one year earlier than required by the Affordable Care Act).
- Elimination of Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) – a panel whose goal was to control program costs.
- Raised Medicare premiums for those with higher-incomes over $500,000 for a single or $750,000 for a couple per year.
- Extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is under the umbrella of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for 10 years. This program insures nearly 9 million children.
- Health extenders, including permanently repealing Medicare therapy caps on physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and outpatient treatment.
- Cutting Medicare physician fees in 2019.
- Passing the CHRONIC Care Act, which provides at-home primary care to high-need Medicare beneficiaries, and allows Medicare Advantage plans to offer supplemental benefits to chronically ill enrollees, such as home-delivered meals or rides to a doctor. The act also adds payment for stroke telemedicine services, and expands coverage of telemedicine services offered by Medicare Advantage plans and ACOs.
In the short term, these changes are mostly good for Medicare. However, the $320 billion plus that this bill will add to the budget over the next 10 years could mean cuts to come in the long term. For now, let’s applaud these positive advances for Medicare!