The Senate today passed their version of a budget deal that delayed Congress for months. It increases spending for health funding and also provides an extra extension for CHIPS (Children’s Health Insurance Program).
In a surprise move, it also repealed the unpopular Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board, a commission charged with finding savings for the program, which adds roughly $17.5 billion to the deficit.
Senate leaders on Wednesday announced their two-year, $400 billion spending deal on Wednesday afternoon. Their package would raise spending caps, freeing up long-awaited appropriations to combat the opioid epidemic—$6 billion over two years.
All the expired Medicare programs, known as extenders, are funded, and community health centers get a funding boost, $3.8 billion for fiscal 2018 and $4 billion for 2019. The House package would grant just $3.6 billion for both years. As in the House measure, the package incorporates the CHRONIC Care Act. This includes tweaks to Medicare rules for chronically ill enrollees.
Most significantly, CHIP will receive an extra four years of funding, bringing the previous six-year extension to a full decade. The extra extension would save the federal government $6 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, because of the coverage it offers for children who would otherwise need to be subsidized on the health exchanges.
The Senate package would also close the coverage gap for Medicare drugs faster. The gap, known as the “donut hole” leaves many senior beneficiaries exposed to high costs.