The Latest Updates on Medicare for February

hourglass, Latest Updates on Medicare for February

Each month, Medicare World takes a look back on the latest news and trends that are important to Medicare beneficiaries. Here’s our report for the month of February.

With February has come legislative news that affects Medicare: a bipartisan budget deal to end the government shutdown, and President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal.

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

On February 9, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which brings positive changes for Medicare. Among the changes made in the budget deal are:

  • Closing the Medicare Part D donut hole one year earlier than planned, in 2019.
  • Repealing Medicare physical, speech and occupational therapy caps.
  • Passing the CHRONIC Care Act, which improves at-home care for those who are chronically ill.

Trump’s FY 2019 Budget Proposal

Days later, on February 12, some less-than-positive Medicare news came. Trump released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2019, which would slash benefits for the elderly and disabled. A statement from the Medicare Rights Center reads: “This budget is full of damaging policies that would make it harder for older adults, people with disabilities, and working families to meet their basic needs.”

Trump’s proposed budget would cut more than $490 billion from Medicare over the next 10 years. In addition, it would:

  • Eliminate cost-sharing for seniors with high prescription drug costs, but increase out-of-pocket expenses for others who haven’t yet reached catastrophic coverage.
  • Expand prior authorization in traditional Medicare.
  • Eliminate SHIP programs, which provide free, one-on-one counseling to Medicare beneficiaries, with over 3,000 state and local offices and over 15,000 counselors.
  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would end health coverage for millions.
  • Abolish block grants to cities and states to support social service programs in their communities.
  • Slash Medicaid by more than $1.4 trillion over the next decade.
  • Cut $72 billion from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
  • Eliminate the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), a training and job placement program for older adults.
  • Cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Food Stamps, by $213 billion over 10 years. Add delivered meals instead of vouchers as part of the benefit. 
  • Freeze most funding in the Older Americans Act.

Trump’s budget goes starkly against his campaign promises not to cut Medicare. The budget plan is not a law, and probably won’t become law. However it does reveal the administration’s priorities and values, and serves as a map for future rulemaking and legislation. It can be disheartening to read a budget like this, which makes it hard to be hopeful for the future of Medicare.

The actual legislation for fiscal year 2019 won’t be expected from Congress for a few more months. Stay tuned to for updates.

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