2003 Medicare law requires $890 million in '06 budget

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Lawmakers on a House subcommittee will have the task starting today of finding $890 million from its $142.5 billion fiscal year 2006 budget proposal to fund implementation of the 2003 Medicare law.

The Bush administration in its FY 2006 budget request asked for $560 million for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid costs related to the Medicare law and $320 million for the Social Security Administration. This agency will help CMS determine eligibility for subsidies available to low-income beneficiaries under the new drug benefit. Many nursing home residents qualify as low-income beneficiaries.

Appropriating the funds for the Medicare law represents a challenge to the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee because the budget proposal is less than the previous year's by $163 million. Cuts to other social programs will be inevitable. The subcommittee will begin meeting starting today.