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Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

May 16 2018

By Lindsay Engle

In February 2018, Congress passed, and the President signed, a spending bill that funds the government through March 23. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 is also known as the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act.

This piece of legislation contains several healthcare provisions important to people with Medicare and their families. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA) also suspends the governments cap on borrowing through March 2019. More importantly, it raises the spending limits for both defense and non-defense funding imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Included in the law is the extension of expired tax extenders for 2017, the extension of energy efficient tax credits and special tax relief for certain disaster victims. The tax provisions range from tax breaks for individuals and families to energy saving tax benefits.

Honoring Hometown Heroes Act

In May of 2017 this act was introduced to the senate and authorizes the governor of a state or the mayor of Washington D.C. to proclaim that the U.S. flag shall be flown at half-staff in the event of death of a first responder, or public safety officer working in such jurisdiction who dies while serving in the line of duty.

Good things about The Bipartisan Budget Act:

  • Funds Medicare outreach and enrollment activities.
    • Since 2008, these efforts have helped nearly 1.5 million low-income Medicare beneficiaries access programs that make their healthcare and prescriptions affordable.
  • Closes the coverage gap.
    • Under the BBA of 2018 certain drug manufacturers will be required to give larger discounts to beneficiaries in the Coverage Gap, starting in 2019.
    • The Medicare Rights Center supports the beneficiary coinsurance reduction of 25 percent in 2019, closing the Coverage Gap a year ahead of schedule.
  • Permanently repeals the Medicare therapy caps.
    • This will protect Medicare beneficiaries from high out-of-pocket costs and safeguard the long-term viability of the Medicare program.
  • Makes coverage of speech generating devices permanent.

  • Extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
    • CHIP provides affordable health coverage to over 9 million children.
  • Funds community health centers.

Unsatisfactory Things about the BBA

  • Increase in Medicare premiums.
    • To help pay for the extensive policy and funding changes, some of the beneficiaries must pay an increased Medicare Part B and Part D premiums.
  • Excludes key healthcare priorities.
    • The biggest reform the Medicare Rights Center supports that is not included is the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act.

Things to Monitor Closely

  • Increase funding for federal programs.
    • The budget raises limits on defense and nondefense spending for two years.
  • Expands services and coverage in Medicare Advantage.
    • This includes the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act.
    • Increases services in Medicare Advantage for beneficiaries with complex medical conditions by expanding supplemental benefits.
      • Making SNP’s permanent, and easing access to telehealth.
    • While the Medicare Rights Center supports the CHRONIC Care Act’s coverage expansions, they would like to see policy makers enhance services available to all Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Changes the Home Health Benefit.

Tax Relief

Extended Tax Relief for Individuals and Families:

  • Mortgage insurance premiums.

  • Tuition and fees deduction.

  • Credit for nonbusiness energy property.

  • Mortgage debt exclusions.

  • Extension and modification of credit for residential energy property.

  • Credit for new qualified fuel cell motor vehicles.

Tax Relief and Changes for Victims of Disaster:

  • California Wildfire tax benefits.

  • Tax benefits for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Many Tax Benefits were added by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. If you filed your tax return before this tax relief was available and want to claim one of the renewed benefits, you can file and amended return on Form 1040X. Amendments can’t be e-filed and can take up to 16 weeks to process.The Budget deal is an array of complex changes to federal healthcare programs. The Medicare Rights Center will stay engaged with lawmakers and the administration to ensure these policies are implemented in a way that prioritizes seniors, people with disabilities, their families and caregivers. The Medicare Rights Center will continue to advocate for funding for programs important to people with Medicare.

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