Debt Ceiling Plan Signed Into Law
No Immediate Cancer Care Cuts
After months of debate, President Obama has signed into law a measure that will raise the debt limit and reduce the federal budget deficit. The Budget Control Act (BCA) passed the House on Monday evening and was quickly passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President today.
The BCA provides for an immediate $917 billion increase to the U.S. debt limit, allowing continued federal spending for 5 to 7 months, matched with newly established caps on discretionary (non-entitlement) spending over the next 10 years. This portion of the legislation does not include Medicare cuts.
A second debt limit increase would take place at the beginning of the 2012 if the Congress passes an additional $1.2 trillion in savings from the recommendations of a bipartisan joint congressional committee (Joint Committee) created by the BCA. The Joint Committee is expected to consider tax and entitlement changes along with other cuts, including potential cuts to Medicare payments for needed cancer care services and treatments.
The Joint Committee is required to submit a plan to the Congress prior to Thanksgiving, and the Congress must vote on the plan without amendments prior to Christmas. If the Joint Committee failed to produce a $1.2 trillion plan, or if the Congress fails to pass the Joint Committee’s plan, the difference between the enacted plan and $1.2 trillion will be cut through an across-the-board spending reduction to defense and domestic spending starting in 2013. If triggered, this provision would allow for a maximum 2% cut in all Medicare spending on providers, Medicare Advantage plans and Part D drug plans with no eligibility, premium or out of pocket changes to Medicare beneficiaries.
The BCA also requires that the House and Senate vote on a joint resolution proposing a balanced-budget amendment (BBA) to the Constitution. The BBA is considered unlikely to pass the Senate and be sent to the states, but if it were to pass, the President could then propose an additional $1.5 trillion debt limit increase.
While the BCA does not include immediate cuts to oncology reimbursement, a significant threat remains in the near future from both the recommendations of the Select Committee, and with the development of offsets needed to fund another fix to the nearly 30% Medicare physician reimbursement cuts schedule for January 1, 2012.
Please continue to contact your Members of Congress and ask them to oppose Medicare cancer care cuts. We will continue to keep you informed as the members of the Joint Committee are named and as the situation progresses through the fall.
To read summaries of the BCA, click here.
To read a flow chart describing the BCA, click here.
To read the text of the BCA, click here.
To contact your Members of Congress (talking points provided), click here.