What’s going on in Washington….?

Congress is in recess this week.  They are scheduled to return the week of April 13th.  Here are some of the major actions that took place last week…

  • The House approved the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (HR 2) by a strong bipartisan vote of 392-37. The measure would permanently replace the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, extend federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years, and extend the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for two years. The legislation would also continue a number of extensions that were previously included in the last SGR patch, also known as the “doc fix,” and would permanently extend the Qualifying Individual (QI) program and Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program. The Maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting programs would also be extended through fiscal 2017. The reductions in state Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments, currently scheduled to begin in fiscal 2017, would also be delayed until fiscal 2018, while another year of DSH cuts would be added on the back end in fiscal 2025. To partially offset the cost of permanently replacing the SGR and other provisions, the bill would raise the percentage that upper-income seniors would have to pay toward their Part B and Part D premiums, and would also prohibit Medicare Supplemental Insurance (Medigap) plans from covering Part B deductibles for new beneficiaries starting in 2020. A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.

 

  • Both chambers of Congress adopted fiscal 2016 budget resolutions, nonbinding spending blueprints that provide lawmakers with a framework as they consider revenue and spending policies. The House budget resolution (H Con Res 27), authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-AL), would result in a budget surplus within eight years, while the Senate plan (S Con Res 11), put forward by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), would balance the budget in 10 years. Both budget resolutions would adhere to defense and non-defense discretionary spending limits under current law for fiscal 2016, which are roughly equal to current year funding levels. However, both the House and Senate plans would reduce non-defense discretionary spending below the Budget Control Act (BCA) caps in future years. Both plans would also repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and would make significant changes to the funding structure of Medicaid.  More details and materials on the House Budget Resolution can be found here, and a summary of the Senate budget resolution as introduced can be found here.

 

  • Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Ron Wyden (R-OR) introduced bipartisan legislation on taxation of digital goods and services (S 851). The measure would prohibit state and local governments from imposing multiple taxes on digital goods and services, such as online downloads of music or literature. Under the bill, taxes may only be imposed on the final customer or end user of the digital product. The legislation also prohibits jurisdictions from imposing taxes on these products that do not apply to similar tangible goods. The measure has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

 

Sarah Curry

Sarah Curry is Director of Fiscal Policy Studies at the John Locke Foundation.

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