Impact of the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Bill on Healthcare
Late last night – as many of us were recovering from the holidays and reluctantly getting ready to return to business as usual – the House of Representatives passed a deal on sequestration, also known as the ‘fiscal cliff’. The deal allowed the country to narrowly avoid a set of automatic tax increases and spending cuts to government programs. According to the New York Times’ ‘Debt Reckoning’ interactive, the bill passed in the Senate with an 89 to 8 vote in the wee hours of New Year’s Day and later passed in the House with a vote of 257 to 167.
The deal had a few important effects on healthcare and health policy. According to an article by David Pittman of MedPage Today, reaching a deal prevented a scheduled 26.5% cut in reimbursement rates to doctors who treat Medicare patients. An additional 2% cut to the reimbursement rate was postponed by two months to March of this year. Though the deal prevents short-term problems, President Obama and many in Congress expressed a need for long-term reform of Medicare and other entitlement programs, which account for a growing portion of government costs. Possible options include slowly raising the eligibility age for Medicare or requiring wealthier Americans to pay higher Medicare premiums, Mr. Pittman writes.
Another result of the bill, according to an article by Emily Ethridge of CQ Roll Call, was the final repeal of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, a long-term care insurance program that was originally part of the 2010 health reform law. Soon after the CLASS Act was passed, analysts began doubting whether it could sustain itself long-term, as required by health reform. In October 2011, the Obama administration decided to stop implementing the program, though it was not formally repealed. Last January, the Act edged closer to repeal as the House started debating its viability. Though some hoped to modify and improve CLASS instead, ultimately, it was fully repealed and replaced with a plan to assemble a 15-member commission of experts to find a better solution to long-term care.
Readers, were you surprised that a deal was reached in time? What do you think of the contents of the deal?