Since the March 1, 2013, deadline has now passed for Congress to enact an alternate deficit reduction plan to avoid the sequestration. Our country is now facing automatic cuts that were established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 which are aimed at reducing the deficit.  The Medicare program is one of the many programs that will be affected by the sequestration.

How did we get to the point of sequestration?

The sequestration cuts are a result of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction’s failure to propose, and Congress’ failure to pass, a bill to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion between 2013 and 2021.  Therefore, based on their failure to pass a bill to decrease the deficit by $1.2 trillion, the sequestration will automatically take effect and cuts set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011 will begin April 1, 2013.  Bipartisan majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the sequestration cuts in August 2011 to force both parties in Congress to compromise and act to shrink the deficit. However, the Medicare News Group reports that “[t]he White House Office Management and Budget (OMB) reported that the across-the-board spending reductions were never intended to actually take place. Despite President Obama signing the Budget Control Act in August 2011, his administration views these cuts as bad policy and has encouraged Congress to avoid them by passing a balanced deficit reduction package.”

Were attempts made to avoid sequestration?

The Congressional Deficit Reduction Super Committee met in 2011 to attempt to reach a bipartisan agreement on spending reduction measures that would avoid the sequestration. However, the Committee failed to negotiate a bipartisan proposal by its deadline in November 2011.

We hear the term “bipartisan” a lot when discussing political issues involving the budget – what does “bipartisan” mean?

Bipartisan can refer to any bill, act, resolution, or political act in which both of the two major political parties agree about all or many parts of a political choice. Bipartisanship involves trying to find common ground, but there is debate whether the issues needing common ground are peripheral or central ones. An analysis in The New York Times in March 2010 suggested that the present state of American politics is marked by oppositional politics which has left the voters cynical about the process. Bipartisanship requires hard work, is sometimes dull, and entails trying to find common ground but enables serious problem solving, according to editorial writers at the Christian Science Monitor in 2010.

What will happen as a result of the sequestration?

Sequestration will cause significant harm to the United States’ national security, domestic investments and core government functions, according to preliminary estimates from the White House Office Management and Budget.  The required reductions include a 2% cut in Medicare provider payments, which would amount to a little over $11 billion dollars.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicare budgetary reductions will total $123 billion from 2013 to 2021.    

Medicare Pathways want to keep you stay informed regarding the political issues that affect each of us in one way or another, not just with regard to Medicare.  While original Medicare is a very important topic in the United States and changes like sequestration can affect many individuals immediately as well as those eligible in the years to come.  Stay informed regarding the Healthcare Reform Act, original Medicare, as well as other topics that are in the headlines by checking Medicare Pathways’ website regularly. 

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