Clinton, Lott Crossing Signals On Budget (6/23/97)
Senate Approves Medicare Changes
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 24) -- In its race toward a vote on the reconciliation portion of the balanced budget bill, the Senate tackled two contentious issues involving Medicare today, voting to raise the eligibility age for Medicare recipients and charge a fee for home health care visits.
By a surprisingly strong 62-38 margin, the Senate voted to maintain a provision in the budget-balancing bill that would gradually raise the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, by the year 2027.
Those in favor of the measure say that the increase is essential to ensure the long-term fiscal health of Medicare as the baby boomer generation begins to retire in 2008. Its detractors argue that such a move would jeopardize the health of 65- and 66-year-olds.
Earlier in the day, Senate Republicans successfully fought to keep a provision to charge Medicare recipients $5 for each home visit by health care workers. The 60-40 vote broke down largely on partisan lines.
A per-visit charge for home health care visits is needed, supporters say, to hold down costs. The bill for home care has jumped from $4 billion in 1990 to an estimated $21 billion next year.
Opponents predict that the proposal would mostly affect people who could not afford the multiple new payments. Two-thirds of home health care recipients are women, one third live alone and 43 percent earn less than $10,000 annually, they say.
Despite the Senate votes, both Medicare reforms may not survive in the final balanced budget bill since the White House opposes both proposals, and neither exist in the House version of the legislation.
A final vote on the bill is likely to come Wednesday, and it is expected to pass with solid bipartisan support.
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