Legislative Update for Week Ending January 18, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending January 18, 2013

This week, Members of the House returned to Capitol Hill to resume legislative business, and Members of the Senate remained in their home states for a second week. Meanwhile, in a Monday press conference, President Obama demanded that Congress raise the debt ceiling to prevent another recession, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a surprising new report on Medicare per capita spending growth.

President Challenges Congress to Raise Debt Ceiling

Members of the House returned to Capitol Hill on Monday, and shortly thereafter, President Obama made remarks in a press conference challenging them to raise the $16.4 trillion debt limit without negotiation. Many Members of Congress have been insisting on steep spending cuts in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling. In response to those demands, President Obama said on Monday: “While I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up … They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.”

According to the Treasury Department, the government could hit its borrowing limit as early as February 15th. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that if lawmakers cannot agree to raise the debt ceiling, there would likely be delays in payment on Medicare and Medicaid bills, income tax refunds, military salaries, veterans’ benefits, and Social Security benefits, among other things. The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) sincerely hopes that all on Capitol Hill will act responsibly to avoid any disruptions in the payment of Social Security benefits and other critical obligations. We will continue to monitor the evolving negotiations, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

Medicare Per Capita Spending Growth Slowed in 2012

In a recent report, HHS announced that per capita Medicare spending grew by just 0.4 percent in fiscal 2012 – a rate that is “unprecedented in the history of the Medicare program,” the authors wrote. Previous growth rates have been considerably higher, at 3.6 percent in 2011 and 1.8 percent in 2010.

The report’s authors wrote that the recession may have played a role in lowering per capita spending. In addition, the influx of baby boomers entering the program could have had an impact, since they require less medical attention than older beneficiaries.  However, the authors noted that these two only explain a small percentage of the low growth rate.

“If sustained,” they wrote, “the slower growth would improve Medicare’s ability to meet its commitments to seniors and persons with disabilities in future generations.” In addition, Congressional Quarterly pointed out that the numbers released by HHS could “give new leverage to those who want to avoid deep Medicare cuts as part of any deficit package later this year.” TSCL was encouraged by the news released by HHS this week, and we hope to see the trend continue in the coming years.