On March 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget plan proposed by House Budget Chair Paul Ryan. The plan would cut $5.7 trillion in spending over 10 years—virtually the same cuts as in the plan he proposed last year, especially when it comes to Medicare.
Rep. Ryan is still focused on replacing Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a voucher that future beneficiaries would use to purchase either private health insurance or a version of traditional Medicare. His plan would apply to all new beneficiaries starting in 2024.
The plan also seeks to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 beginning in 2024 for people born in 1959. According to Strengthen Social Security, a nonprofit organization, “this would increase out-of-pocket healthcare costs for everyone, and force more people near retirement to live without even basic health insurance.”
The Ryan budget would repeal major health reform provisions that strengthen Medicare benefits, such as closing the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage (known as the “donut hole”) and covering preventive services without cost sharing. Repealing these provisions would adversely affect current and future beneficiaries.
Finally, the Ryan budget would retain the 2 percent “sequestration” cuts in Medicare that the 2011 Budget Control Act requires for 2013 through 2021. Although the Ryan proposal cuts essential benefits, it offers a huge tax cut for wealthy taxpayers and corporations.
On the Senate side, the budget proposed by Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray is vastly different from Ryan’s. The budget, which was passed by the Senate on March 23, raises $975 billion in tax revenues and doesn’t include any cuts to entitlement benefits.
Now that both the House and Senate have passed their own budgets, a bill will be written to reconcile the two.
April 1, 2013