Tuesday, July 23, 2013

House Ways and Means Committee Asks for Input on Medicare Proposals

In their continued focus on Medicare, the House Ways and Means committee asked for public comment Friday on draft legislation prosing three modifications to Medicare’s benefits system that were made by the Obama administration. The committee, which has a Republican majority, didn’t necessarily endorse the proposals, but still published them for comments until August 16th.

As reported by CQ, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the three proposed changes would save more than $60 billion over 10 years. The changes would increase premiums that wealthier beneficiaries pay for services under Medicare Parts B and D, increase the deductible for Part B services, and create a copayment for home health services. Without and changes, the Medicare Trustee Report projects that the trust fund will become insolvent by 2026.

The bill would also increase the lowest income-related premium from 35 percent to 40 percent, and increase the premiums for other income brackets, with a cap of 90 percent at the highest tier. Income thresholds associated with those premiums until 25 percent of beneficiaries are subject to the higher premiums would also be maintained. The proposal would apply a $25 increase to the Part B deductible in 2017, 2019, and 2021 for new Medicare beneficiaries, and would add a new $100 copayment for home health episodes for new beneficiaries beginning in 2017.

Currently, beneficiaries are not required to make a copayment for home health services, which are paid based on a pre-determined daily rate for each 60-day episode of care. The copayment would be preempted if the home health episode was directly preceded by a hospital stay or inpatient post-acute care stay.

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