Congress leaves Medicare and Medicaid untouched in $1.1 trillion spending bill
The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by the Senate on Saturday will fund the government through September 2015, without any major changes to Medicare or Medicaid.
The measure abides by limits set in a December 2013 budget deal worked out by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). That deal lifted most of the spending reductions caused by sequestration, but left in place a 2% cut to Medicare provider reimbursements. These cuts currently are scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2023.
The latest spending bill does not call for any significant changes to Medicare or Medicaid. However, it will allow benefits to be cut for retirees on certain large pension plans. Some of these plans are in bad financial shape, and failures could bankrupt the government's pension safety net, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Some critics warned that this could set a “precedent” and lead to more large-scale reductions in benefits for retirees and other seniors, including cuts to Medicare.
The spending package survived a contentious vote in the House of Representatives, where many Democrats objected to provisions that would weaken regulations imposed on banks following the 2008 financial crisis. Twenty-one Senate Democrats then voted against it, but it passed with a 56-40 margin. The bill awaited President Barack Obama's signature as of late Monday afternoon.