On February 11, 2014, Congress approved a one-year extension of Medicare sequestration cuts as part of a bill (an amendment to S. 25) to restore certain military retiree pension benefits. Under the legislation, current 2% across-the-board cuts to Medicare provider payments would be extended through 2024 (instead of 2023). While the savings from the sequestration extension would primarily be used to finance the military pension benefits, $2.3 billion would be set aside to help finance pending Medicare physician fee schedule reform legislation (a fraction of the estimated cost of reform). The measure now awaits the President’s signature.
There is obviously hope that Congress will reach an alternative budget solution in the intervening years before the sequestration extension would be imposed. Nevertheless, this is the second time in two months that Congress has turned to an extension of Medicare sequestration as a funding mechanism — a troubling new trend for Medicare providers.