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Trade bill would affect Medicare, groups complain

April 22, 2015
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Four large healthcare trade organizations have sent letters to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives expressing concerns over a plan to fund provisions in trade bills through healthcare dollars, resulting in cuts to Medicare.

An effort under consideration to reauthorize the Trade Adjustment Act program, for instance, “would extend the sequester on Medicare for the past six months in 2024 and increase the amount cut by the sequester by $700 million, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates,” wrote the American Health Care Association, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association in letter to both sides of Congress. “This results in a net effect of increasing the sequester in 2024 beyond the two percent in the Budget Control Act.”

The Trade Adjustment Act, the groups noted, provides those who have lost their health coverage due to trade agreements a tax credit to help them pay for new health insurance.

“Hospitals, physicians, nursing homes and home health and hospice providers have already absorbed hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicare program in recent years,” continue the letters, provided to Long-Term Living. “Additionally alarming is the use of Medicare cuts to pay for non-Medicare related legislation, a precedent that we believe is unwise.”

The organizations asked Congress two strike this provision from the proposed legislation and not to consider such a cut as an offset in future bills. “Reductions to Medicare payments have real impacts on patients and providers,” they concluded.