Budget Deal Includes Big Health Care Changes
By Jennifer Perkins

Capitol buildingFederal lawmakers passed a massive budget deal early Friday morning that will have significant impacts on physicians and health care.

Of particular importance to Texas Medical Association members is that permanent, across-the-board, Medicare physician payment cuts have been prevented. However, the 0.5 percent payment increase originally promised for 2019 will be at most a 0.25 percent payment increase.

Other health-related initiatives in the two-year bipartisan budget agreement include:  

  • An extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for 10 years instead of the six years Congress had adopted after the budget standoff in January;
  • $6 billion over the next two years to address the national opioid crisis;
  • $90 billion in post-hurricane disaster aid to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, though specific amounts for each state and territory have not been set;
  • $4 billion to the Veterans Administration (VA) to improve and rebuild VA hospitals;
  • Funding for the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program and the National Health Service Corps;
  • Almost $8 billion over two years for community health centers; and
  • $2 billion to the National Institutes of Health for research. 

The deal also: 

  • Repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was set up in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); and
  • Speeds up closure of Medicare’s coverage gap for Part D drug costs for seniors, the so-called "donut hole."
  • Makes several changes to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) that the AMA has been strongly advocating for. 

“I am leading a contingent of Texas physicians to Washington next week to talk to our senators and representatives and members of the Trump administration about what comes next,” said TMA President Carlos J. Cardenas, MD. “We will focus on winning more regulatory relief for physicians, constructive changes to the ACA, and lifting the moratorium on physician-owned hospitals.”

Both the military and domestic sequesters have ended, general government spending will increase considerably, and the debt ceiling is raised until March 1, 2019 – conspicuously after the midterm elections. Yet the 2-percent cut in Medicare provider payments sequester will continue.

The government is funded through March 23, giving appropriators approximately six weeks to fine-tune the spending allocations.

 

Last Updated On

February 13, 2018

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Jennifer Perkins

Advocacy Communication Manager

(512) 370-1469
Jennifer Perkins

Jennifer Perkins, a native Texan and University of Texas Longhorn, has worked in politics, public affairs, and advocacy for more than two decades, covering a litany of subject areas and a number of states, using a marketing-oriented communications style as informed by her MBA. Jennifer has two dogs, is a college football fanatic, loves to entertain, and prefers to be outdoors..

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