The GOP-controlled House of Representatives approved a budget proposal first. Then came a very different document from the Democratic-controlled Senate. Now thousands more pages of numbers will land with a thud on Capitol Hill on April 10.
It’s the president’s annual budget proposal.
Unless you’re an underemployed CPA or an incurable policy wonk, you probably won’t want to wade through all that. So here’s a short checklist of what you should watch for in the budget:
- A chained CPI. This twist on the Consumer Price Index would lower the annual cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security and other federal programs that help millions of older Americans keep up with inflation. The House budget doesn’t address a chained CPI, though many Republicans have supported it in the past. The Senate bill specifically opposes it, and so do AARP and other advocacy organizations.
- A big change in the way Medicare is set up. Will President Obama propose combining Medicare parts A and B, which cover hospitalization and office visits? That approach, similar to a plan House Majority Leader Eric Cantor proposed in February, could change premiums for many seniors.
- Cuts in payments to Medicare providers. Obama has, for example, in the past proposed cutting how much Medicare pays drug companies. CNN reports that Obama will propose a total of $400 billion in Medicare cuts over the next 10 years.
- More means testing for Medicare. The president could propose changes that leave wealthier beneficiaries paying more.
- Tax increases. Obama is weighing a new tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products (to fund preschool education), Politico reports. The Associated Press reports that the president’s budget plan includes $580 billion in new taxes that Republicans oppose.
- An IRA cap. Politico also reports that the president is considering a $3 million ceiling on tax-advantaged Individual Retirement Accounts.
- Deficit reduction. Obama’s plan likely will include $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years – less than Republicans want but more than current law.
- Protection for Medicaid. As the budget ax falls in many places, the White House seems likely to protect Medicaid because expansion of coverage for low-income Americans is a key part of his new health care law.
- Programs for older Americans. Obama’s budget might replace cuts made by the sequester to Meals on Wheels, legal aid, job training and aid to caregivers.
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