February 9, 2018
The bipartisan budget bill passed by Congress early this morning is, on balance, good news for seniors and the federal programs that provide them with financial and health security.
“Seniors will feel these changes in their pocketbooks and even in the way they feel physically,” says Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “We have been fighting for these measures for quite some time and are happy to see Congress take action on a bipartisan basis.”
On the positive side, the budget bill:
*Closes Medicare Part D “donut hole” in 2019. The prescription drug coverage gap embedded in the original law, which the Affordable Care Act has been gradually closing, will be altogether eliminated one year early. This will save seniors thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.
*Repeals Medicare therapy caps. The bill scraps arbitrary caps on physical, speech, language and occupational therapies that have cost seniors money – or delayed care at crucial times. Beneficiaries will now find it easier – and more affordable – to get the therapies they need without undue interruption.
*Lifts non-defense domestic spending caps, allowing Congress to appropriate more adequate funding for the Social Security Administration’s operating budget. The SSA has suffered from draconian budget cuts since 2011 which have impinged on customer service, even as 10,000 Baby Boomers retire every day. This badly-needed (but yet unspecified) higher level of funding should allow SSA to improve customer service for the program’s 67 million beneficiaries.
On the negative side, the bill increases Medicare premiums for some individuals by further expanding Medicare means-testing. “Congress continues to expand Medicare means-testing, and they will not stop until middle-class seniors are burdened with higher Medicare premiums,” says Richtman.
Here is a more detailed summary of the budget bill’s implications for seniors.
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