As Fiscal Deadlines Loom, Lawmakers Raise the Prospect of Entitlement Cuts
October 22, 2015 12:47 PM
Two fiscal deadlines for the federal government are quickly approaching. The first deadline, November 3, is for Congress to raise the federal debt limit in order to prevent the government from risking default. The next deadline, December 11, is for Congress to pass legislation funding the federal government in order to prevent a government shutdown. In Congressional negotiations over both deadlines, some lawmakers have raised the prospect of potential spending cuts, including cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) is carefully monitoring the negotiations and opposes any offset that would imposehome health copays or include payment rate cuts.
Some Republicans have expressed disagreement with raising the debt ceiling without making entitlement cuts. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew testified before the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week and called for a “clean” debt limit increase, meaning one without spending cuts. Following the hearing, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch reportedly said Lew’s position was “business as usual” and that “we all know we need to curtail [entitlement] programs.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Wednesday, “Obviously, we [Republicans] don't prefer a clean debt ceiling.”
However, Leader McConnell noted that he is deferring to the House to act first, and the latest reports indicate that House Republican leaders intend to introduce a “clean” debt limit increase as soon as this week, in order to provide the Senate with enough time to pass the measure before November 3.
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he hopes the House will act on the debt limit this week, so that the Senate has time to act as well. Reid said raising the debt limit in a timely manner would allow Congress to turn its attention to the funding legislation. “We’re going to take them one at a time,” Reid told CQ. “It’s my understanding the House is going to try and bring up a debt ceiling bill… and we hope that they’ll do it this week. That will allow us time to do this before the deadline which is two weeks from today. Then we’ll start focusing on the budget.”
The debate over federal spending legislation in December could also result in proposals to cut entitlement programs. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) reportedly expressed concern this week about the possibility of proposed Medicare and Medicaid cuts. “What worries me is in this process we continually hear proposals to cut providers in Medicare or Medicaid, which, to me, does not make sense,” Stabenow said. “I'm committed to creating a way so that you have some confidence and certainty that we're on a path, and that the rug's not going to be pulled out from under you a few steps down the road.”
NAHC opposes any offset that would impose home health copays or include payment rate cuts. Home health copays would be a “sick tax” on our most vulnerable seniors, and additional payment rate cuts on top of those that have already been implemented would directly impact access to care for Medicare home health beneficiaries. NAHC encourages you to contact your members of Congress using NAHC’s Legislative Action Center (click here), and ask them to oppose any home health copays or payment cuts to offset the cost of any legislation.