House votes to remove Medicare cuts from trade bill

The House voted 397-32 yesterday to remove controversial Medicare cuts from legislation that would have used Medicare dollars to help pay for the expansion of the Trade Assistance Adjustment program, giving a victory to providers.

The  Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 now must pass in the Senate, which  approved the Medicare cuts on May 22 despite strong opposition from provider groups. The cuts would extend sequestration through 2024 and add an additional 0.25% cut to the 2% cut implemented in 2013. That additional cut would take $700 million from Medicare in 2024. The Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015 would instead create funding for the TAA by bolstering federal tax compliance laws.

The potential Medicare cuts had drawn ire from healthcare and senior advocacy groups this spring before they were approved by the Senate. In a letter to lawmakers signed by the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the American Health Care Association and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, the groups called the cuts “unwise” and “alarming.”

"Apparently using Medicare as a piggy bank to pay for everything under the sun has become the new legislative norm for Congress," Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told the National Journal in April.