With both the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) failing to reach a vote in Congress, it seems Trumpcare is dead in the water. Add in the latest Trustees’ report that there will be no spending cuts to Medicare this year, and it appears that things are looking up for Medicare beneficiaries, right? Not in the long-term, thanks to a new federal budget proposal.
It began Tuesday afternoon, when House Republicans revealed a budget that proposed massive spending cuts to social programs while increasing funding for defense and the military. Come Wednesday night, the House Budget Committee approved the plan by vote of 22-14. What’s in this bill that affects senior citizens and Medicare recipients?
Medicare spending cuts loom on the horizon
For starters, Social Security is exempt from this budget. This is a good thing. However, the budget also proposes cutting Medicare spending by $487 billion during the next 10 years. This is not a good thing.
Vouchers could lead to boost in Medicare Advantage
The budget also reintroduces a plan to reform Medicare into a voucher-like system that would make the government’s health insurance program semi-private. This system would compel seniors to opt between enrolling in traditional Medicare, choosing one of various forms of Medicare Advantage plans, or selecting yet-to-be determined options provided by private insurance carriers. President Trump campaigned against this plan. Democrats claim it would make Medicare cost 25% more than present, in addition to limiting coverage that is currently guaranteed under Original Medicare.
Higher premiums, increase in age of eligibility
The budget also proposes requiring affluent seniors to pay higher premiums in Medicare, as those who make $1 million or more will pay the full cost of the premiums without any federal assistance. In addition, it suggests moving the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 for citizens who are currently 51 years old or younger. According to the CBO, such a shift in eligibility would trim Medicare spending by 2% but only after all enrollees are covered by the later eligibility age.
Fighting Medicare fraud
Finally, the budget promises a crackdown on “improper payments” to individuals who do not qualify for Medicare or Social Security benefits. Language in the proposal claims that nearly $60 billion in improper Medicare payments were made during the last fiscal year. This comes shortly after the news that the Department of Justice nabbed 115 medical professionals for $1.3 billion in fraud in the largest healthcare fraud bust in the history of the United States.
As vast as some of these changes may seem to some, they are neither official nor imminent just yet. Traditionally, the President submits his mid-session review of the budget to Congress on July 15. That hasn’t even happened yet, and Congress is expected to take its summer recess in a few weeks. Hence, nothing is settled just yet.
If you have concerns about the latest proposed budget, learn how to contact your local representative before he or she takes their summer recess.
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