Providers are raising alarms about potential cuts to Medicare that would bankroll benefits for workers hurt by future free-trade agreements.
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, sponsored by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), would rely on $700 million in reduced Medicare spending in 2024 to pay for healthcare coverage and other benefits for workers who lose coverage because of any agreements negotiated under fast-track trade authority sought by President Barack Obama.
The $700 million in savings would be achieved by increasing Medicare cuts that were part of the sequester by 0.25% in 2024. Roughly $90 million of that money would be used to provide workers tax credits to help pay for healthcare coverage between 2016 and 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
A broad coalition of providers argue that it would set a troubling precedent.
“Hospitals, physicians, nursing homes and home health and hospice providers have already absorbed hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicare program in recent years,” reads a letter sent to senators on Tuesday, which was jointly signed by the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, American Health Care Association and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice. “Additionally alarming is the use of Medicare cuts to pay for non-Medicare-related legislation, a precedent that we believe is unwise.”
Obama is seeking the expanded authority to negotiate a wide-ranging Asia-Pacific trade deal. The House is expected to grant that authority on Wednesday, despite widespread opposition from congressional Democrats.