A Budget Deal Is On the Table—But Possible Sequester Extension Looms
By Sydney Abbott, JD, Manager, Provider Economics & Public Policy, ACCC
The bipartisan Congressional Budget Conference Committee came to an agreement on the federal budget on Tuesday, which is now scheduled to be voted on by all of Congress on Friday. The budget deal is not sweeping change, but it takes small steps towards compromise—something that has been eluding a gridlocked Congress for years. Some of the small steps include no new tax increases and a reconfiguration of part of the sequester that had significant impacts on domestic spending in 2013.
The good news: The deal funds the federal government through 2015. The bad news: Although it eliminates some of the cuts imposed by sequestration, the deal not only keeps the sequester in place for Medicare, it also proposes to extend the sequester for another two years. By doing this, the Conference Committee’s compromise budget would create about $28 billion in savings through 2023—just by keeping the 2% across-the-board Medicare sequester in place for two years longer than originally called for in the Budget Control Act of 2011. (The Budget Control Act was the law that enabled sequestration to be enacted when the bipartisan, bicameral debt “super committee” failed to agree on $1.2 trillion in savings.)
The possibility that the sequester may be prolonged is troubling news for community oncology, especially coming on the heels of newly released ACCC survey data showing the impact of sequestration on providers and their patients. This most recent survey of ACCC members shows that the sequester is affecting more cancer programs than initially thought, and is having an impact on all cancer patients.
But the struggle over the sequester is far from over. First, the budget must pass the House and Senate. And even if it does, ACCC is still continuing to fight for legislation that would exempt cancer drugs specifically from the sequester, HR 1416. This bill has gained much bipartisan support, and we will continue to work for the passage of this legislation.
All of this serves to underscore the importance of continued communication with members of Congress about how the sequester is affecting your cancer program and your patients. This is a developing issue so stay tuned for more information about the budget and other deals that are in the works for an upcoming congressional vote, like the SGR.