Feb. 13—Congress cleared legislation Wednesday to add another year to the ongoing 2 percent cut to Medicare providers and insurers, known as the sequester.

The bill would extend the sequester for Medicare—and some other mandatory programs—to help offset the restoration of previously enacted $6 billion in cuts to military retirement benefits.

The move came over the objections of hospital advocacy organizations, which wrote members of Congress before the vote asking them not to use “Medicare reductions to pay for non-Medicare related spending.”

“Medicare has been cut time and time again—most recently under the budget agreement signed into law in December,” the letter said.

A two-year budget deal that Congress passed in December extended for two years—until 2023—the sequester cuts created by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The 2011 sequester law required a 2 percent reduction in all Medicare provider and insurer payments for 10 years, which accounted for $120 billion of the sequester’s $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions.

“Medicare is meant to assure seniors access to needed medical care, not serve as a piggybank for other programs,” the letter from hospital advocacy organizations stated. “It is bad policy to further extend Medicare sequester cuts that could undermine care for seniors.”

President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill.

Publication Date: Thursday, February 13, 2014