The House is expected to vote on a measure as early as today that would stay the so-called 45% trigger in the Medicare programa move Democratic lawmakers say will effectively prevent potentially lengthy and ill-timed debates about the future of Medicare in general.
Under the provision, drafted as part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the White House can influence legislative proposals to help rein in Medicare spending after general revenues begin to make up more than 45% of total Medicare spending for two consecutive years. Predictably, the trigger got tripped last year, and, as a result, White House officials in February sent to Congress a legislative package that includes a mix of medical liability reforms, higher Medicare premiums and a systematic move toward value-based purchasing.
As written, the law gives wide latitude to any House member to force debate and a vote on an almost unlimited amount of legislative proposals if the House does not act on the presidents bill by July 30, according to a House Committee on Rules aide. Democratic leaders said that they are concerned that such a move could cause gridlock to the legislative process, with basically any bill becoming fodder for a broad debate on Medicare.
The trigger was crafted to do a hatchet job on Medicare, cutting benefits and shifting costs to beneficiaries, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said in a written statement. We ought to govern more thoughtfully than that.