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Legislators Issue Call to Protect Medicare & Medicaid From Fiscal Cliff Talks

Talks between President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner to avert the “fiscal cliff” continue this weeks. While not the only leaders involved in the effort, most disagreement on the issues exist between the President and House Republicans. Some observers are confident that the parties will reach an agreement before the January first cliff. However, members of the public remain skeptical, and many are rightly worried about how the automatic cuts and tax increases will affect them.

New York seniors are likely wondering whether their Medicare or Medicaid support will be changed in any way as a result of going over the cliff or in a compromise to avoid it. While we will not know for sure until things are more settled, some members of Congress recently came forward to issue their support for protecting the full value of the programs.

As reported by Now NY, the group of Democratic Senators and House members held a conference this week arguing that no deal to avoid the cliff should include cuts to Medicare or Medicaid. This is stark contrast to some other policymakers who argue that there is no way to get a deal without actually conceding some budget cuts for those programs.

For example, one Senator noted that “Any cut in Medicaid will be felt by our most vulnerable. We can’t let that happen. That’s what’s at stake.”

While the fiscal cliff itself does not call for Medicaid cuts, when it comes to the compromise agreements that might be taken, anything is on the table.

One complexity to these negotiations is that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) explicitly calls for a significant expansion of Medicaid (up to 16 million more enrollees). Under the health care law, the federal government was poised to pay for most of that increase. Timing that proposed increase with Medicaid cuts as part of this fiscal cliff agreement may prove tricky.

The Medicaid expansion as part of Obamacare is technically optional for individual states, and so there is concern that some state governors may decide to “opt out” of the expansion. That concern is more pronounced if Medicaid cuts are part of the new deal, because it may signal a problem with full federal support for the expansion. In other words, states may worry about expanding the program only to have the federal government back out on their agreement to pay for the expansion.

It is still far too early to do anything more than speculate, but New Yorkers who rely on the Medicaid program are advised to remain vigilant about how these details shake out to determine if any extra planning is needed to account for changes.

See Other Posts:

Value of Meals on Wheels Program

The Fiscal Cliff and Medicaid

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