NEWSFLASH: Michael Hiltzick of the Los Angeles Times Says That Congress Is Plotting to Pay for Trade Deal by Raiding Medicare

LosAngelesTimesBy Elaine Magliaro

On Monday, Michael Hiltzick of the Los Angeles Times wrote in his article Congress plots to pay for a trade deal by raiding Medicare that “Medicare means many things to many people.” He said, “To seniors, it’s a program providing good, low-cost healthcare at a stage in life when it’s most needed.” Then he added that Medicare is “beginning to look more like a piggy bank to be raided” to Congress.

Hiltzick:

That’s the only conclusion one can draw from a provision slipped into a measure to extend and increase the government’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides assistance to workers who lose their jobs because of trade deals. The measure, introduced by Rep. David Reichert (R-Wash.), proposes covering some of the $2.7-billion cost of the extension by slicing $700 million out of doctor and hospital reimbursements for Medicare.

Evidently, there is a plan in Congress “to move the Trade Assistance Program expansion in tandem with fast-track approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, possibly as early as this week.” Hiltzick noted that in an earlier article, ‘Free trade’ isn’t what Trans-Pacific Partnership would deliver, he had explained “the dangers of the fast-track approval of this immense and largely secret trade deal.”  He said that “the linkage with the assistance program adds a new layer of political connivance: Congressional Democrats demanded the expansion of the Trade Assistance Program, Congressional Republicans apparently found the money in Medicare.” He then said that “the Obama White House, which should be howling in protest, has remained silent.”

Max Richtman, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told Hiltzick, “To take this cut and apply it to something completely unrelated sets a terrible precedent.”

In his article, Hiltzick said that the cut in Medicare “is designed as an extension to the 2011 sequester, an economically damaging bit of fiscal hugger-mugger Congress devised as a route out of an impasse over the federal debt limit.” He added that “Medicare was relatively but not entirely unscathed by the sequester: much of the program was exempted from cuts, though provider reimbursements were pared by 2% each year through 2023. Last year, the Medicare sequester was extended into 2024 to cover a reversal of cost-of-living cuts to veterans’ pension benefits — another case of raiding Medicare for an unrelated program.” According to Hiltzick, the “new proposal cuts Medicare provider benefits by another quarter of a percentage point from October 2024 through March 2025.”

Click here to read  the full text of Michael Hiltzick’s article Congress plots to pay for a trade deal by raiding Medicare.

 

SOURCES & FURTHER READING

Congress plots to pay for a trade deal by raiding Medicare (Los Angeles Times)

http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-congress-plots-to-raid-medicare-20150518-column.html#page=1

‘Free trade’ isn’t what Trans-Pacific Partnership would deliver (Los Angeles Times)
http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-20150206-column.html#page=1

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3 Responses to NEWSFLASH: Michael Hiltzick of the Los Angeles Times Says That Congress Is Plotting to Pay for Trade Deal by Raiding Medicare

  1. blouise says:

    Follow the money!

    The baby boomers (1946-1964) have been paying into Medicare and Social Security all their working lives. They have just started to hit retirement age and will continue to enter that market through 2031.

    If anyone, and I mean anyone, tells you that Medicare or Social Security are well enough funded to loan Congress money or that any of those funds should be managed by Wall Street, start recall procedures immediately and never vote for that thief again.

    This is an area where elected representatives like Warren, Brown, hopefully Feingold, and others are going to be so vital to the lives of all Americans.

  2. Elaine M. says:

    Unions, Seniors Groups Urge Congress Not To Cut Medicare To Fund Trade Assistance
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/09/medicare-cuts-tpp_n_7545482.html

    Excerpt:
    An already difficult road for the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the House of Representatives got bumpier on Monday, as controversial Medicare cuts were brought into the mix.

    Labor unions and senior citizens’ groups are launching efforts to lobby House members against a bill that includes $700 million in proposed cuts to Medicare reimbursements for doctors and hospitals. The cuts would be used to fund a $2.5 billion extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance funding, which aids workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade deals. The TAA extension accompanies legislation known as Trade Promotion Authority, which gives President Barack Obama the ability to “fast-track” trade deals, including TPP, a controversial trade agreement between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations.

    The Huffington Post has obtained exclusive access to two letters, both sent to House members on Monday, one from labor unions and one from a number of seniors groups. Both letters condemn the use of Medicare cuts to fund TAA, and urge representatives to vote against the extension if it is not funded independently. The opposition of labor unions and other liberal interest groups, who normally support TAA, speaks to just how much more controversial the trade legislation — which already faces the opposition of House members in both parties — has become thanks to the proposed Medicare cuts.

  3. Elaine M. says:

    Trade Deal Targets Medicare, New Leak Reveals
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/10/tpp-medicare-leak_n_7555232.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000013%3Fncid%3Dfcbklnkushpmg00000063

    Excerpt:
    For the second time in a week, Medicare is complicating an already fraught debate over the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

    A recent draft of the health care transparency section of TPP released by Wikileaks on Wednesday reveals the deal would make Medicare vulnerable to legal challenges from pharmaceutical companies and jeopardize future attempts by the insurer to negotiate lower drug prices.

    In a modest victory for global health care advocates, however, the leaked draft does not contain previous language explicitly protecting prescription drug prices from being marked down by government insurers.

    Although the TPP section requiring national-government health authorities to abide by “transparency and procedural fairness for pharmaceutical products and medical devices” was long suspected to apply to Medicare, the draft text released Wednesday, which dates to December 2014, marks the first explicit mention of Medicare. The new rules would not apply to state or provincial health authorities, which in the U.S. include Medicaid.

    The TPP section requires countries to share decisions about pricing and regulation of drugs with pharmaceutical manufacturers, provide opportunity for comment on those decisions and create a process through which those decisions can be reviewed at the request of affected companies.

    According to an analysis of the leaked document by Jane Kelsey, a law professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, these rules are enough to expose national health authorities to legal challenges under TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement process, or ISDS. ISDS empowers companies to challenge countries’ domestic laws before a tribunal of international judges if they believe the laws unfairly limit investment. The tribunals have the power to impose significant fines on countries if their laws are found responsible for the investment hardship in question. While pharmaceutical companies could not challenge national health programs’ policies through ISDS, their grievances would be eligible for ISDS if the companies claimed the policies hindered investment.

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