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Lawmakers Working on Legislative Text for Medicare Overhaul

By Erin Mershon, CQ Roll Call

November 17, 2016 -- House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said he and his staff are currently drafting legislative text to address Medicare changes sometime in the next Congress.

The comments from the Texas Republican came as House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., laid out a goal of restructuring Medicare in 2017 in comments to The Hill. An aide to Price confirmed to CQ Roll Call that he hopes to use reconciliation to advance major changes, including Medicare. But the aide said timing and structure will depend on the incoming Congress and administration.

Brady, for his part, did not commit to any specific timeline in an interview with CQ Roll Call.

"I'm not engaging on the procedure and the sequencing or timing of all of that, but we are, as we speak, writing the Medicare reforms to save Medicare that we included in our Better Way plan," he said. "We're working on that legislation. We continue, we have work to do to complete it, but The Better Way laid out our approach to save Medicare for the long term, so we're working to put that into legislative text."

Brady was referencing a House document, finalized earlier this year at the request of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., that lays out the Republican alternative to the 2010 health law. The proposal also lays out changes to Medicaid and Medicare that have long been favored by Republican policymakers, including so-called premium support, which would give seniors a set amount of money to purchase coverage, either from Medicare or a private plan. Critics say that over time, the funding would be lower than under the current entitlement system and seniors could receive fewer benefits.

Though President-elect Donald Trump said on the campaign trail that he did not plan to cut Medicare or Medicaid, a transition website that lists his presidential priorities for health care includes plans to "modernize Medicare, so that it will be ready for the challenges with the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation—and beyond."

Price, who is being considered for the post of Health and Human Services Secretary under the incoming Trump administration, told The Hill he hoped to advance Medicare changes in a so-called reconciliation package later in 2017 that would be drawn from a fiscal 2018 budget resolution. Many Republicans have coalesced around a plan to use the fiscal 2017 budget resolution and its accompanying reconciliation instructions to begin work in January to repeal the controversial health overhaul. Reconciliation allows Republicans, who are expected to hold just 52 Senate seats next year, to get around the upper chamber's 60-vote firewall.

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