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Barrasso, Cotton Target Bailout Bill to Stave Off Medicare Cuts

March 24, 2021 by TWN Staff
Sen. John Barrasso.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., are urging their colleagues to support legislation that would address looming cuts to Medicare by redirecting a portion of the recently passed $1.9 trillion dollar COVID relief bill.

The Protecting Seniors Access to Health Care Act reallocates $12.3 billion in targeted funding for health care providers impacted by COVID-19. 

The senators say this is the same amount mandated by the automatic 2% spending cut known as the sequester. Instead of experiencing automatic cuts, the hardest-hit providers would receive targeted relief.

“That Democrats couldn’t find their way to avoid cuts to Medicare providers fighting COVID-19 during a pandemic in their $1.9 trillion bill is another bad surprise in a bill that was full of them,” Barrasso said.

“Democrats previously worked with Republicans to provide critical relief from the 2% Medicare sequester. Not this time. The right thing to do now is to take a portion of the funding already appropriated and give it to a high-priority need in our communities,” he said.

Cotton was equally blunt.

“In the last so-called relief bill, Democrats allocated funding for a variety of liberal pet projects, but neglected to address the impending Medicare sequestration deadline,” he said. “Our legislation fixes the problem that Democrats caused and ensures that seniors are protected.” 

Medicare was subject to automatic spending cuts beginning in 2013. This reduction is known as the sequester and reduces payments to Medicare providers by up to 2%. Congress previously intervened on a bipartisan basis to stop these cuts.

The sequester was suspended from May 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, through a provision in the CARES Act. Congress then acted once again in the 2020 end-of-year funding bill to continue this relief until March 31, 2021.

The recently enacted $1.9 trillion partisan spending bill did not include relief from the Medicare sequester. As a consequence, Medicare providers will once again experience an automatic spending cut, the senators said.

The Protecting Seniors Access to Health Care Act provides targeted relief equal to the amount of the sequester. 

The senators note the legislation is completely offset by redirecting a small amount of funding that the most recent stimulus bill provided to state and local governments. 

The legislation also includes a technical correction for rural health clinics, which was included in legislation that recently passed the House of Representatives. 

The Barrasso/Cotton bill would also amend the portion of the COVID relief bill that provides most Americans with $1,400 stimulus checks. The change would specifically prohibit both  incarcerated individuals and those with illegal immigration status from receiving stimulus checks.

The Senators’ bill would also prohibit individuals residing in the country illegally from received COBRA continuation coverage through their employer.

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