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By Alex Ruoff
Republicans won’t attempt to overhaul the Medicare program this year, the head of the House Ways and Means Committee told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 28.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act will dominate the health-care agenda for lawmakers in 2017, leaving little opportunity to take on major changes to Medicare, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told Bloomberg BNA. House Republicans may look at some changes to the Medicare Advantage program but only after completing repeal and replacement of the ACA.
While House Republican leaders want to pass an ACA repeal bill this spring, completely lifting the health law’s many insurance rules will take months, Brady said. Republicans are planning to use a process known as reconciliation twice this year to pass ACA repeal and replacement bills using a simple majority in both chambers.
“We’re just devoting all the resources we have to repeal and replace the ACA,” Brady said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has long pushed for changing Medicare, proposing transforming the public insurance program into a voucher-like system where seniors receive a subsidy to buy private insurance. With Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, it appeared that Ryan might have a free hand to take on the Medicare program, which he says could become insolvent if Congress doesn’t act.
President Donald Trump, however, has promised to maintain Medicare funding at its current levels. His pick to head the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, told lawmakers as part of her confirmation process she’s against turning Medicare into a voucher program.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told the crowd at the American Medical Association’s annual policy conference in Washington Feb. 28 that Trump’s commitment to maintaining Medicare funding will keep Republicans from changing the program this year.
He said there’s “no appetite” in either the House or Senate for premium support, changing Medicare so it pays for private insurance rather than directly insuring a senior.
“I don’t see a lot happening on Medicare reform, given the president’s comments,” Dent, chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, said.
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