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Is Trump Cutting Medicare Benefits?


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Medicare was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In the 54 years since, Medicare benefits and eligibility have seen many changes. Many of these changes have been to expand the program, not to cut it. You may have heard that Trump’s budget for 2020 will reduce taxes to the top one percent and cut $845 billion from Medicare over ten years.

Here’s more about the politics surrounding funding for Medicare benefits.

How many presidents have cut Medicare benefits?

The Medicare program has survived eight presidents between Lyndon B. Johnson and Donald J. Trump, including Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

Since its inception, Medicare has expanded to cover people with disabilities and end-stage renal disease requiring dialysis or kidney transplant, as well as people 65 or older. People under 65 with serious illnesses may require expensive medical care. So Medicare funding had to expand to cover these people.

In 2003, the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act under President George W. Bush made the biggest changes to the program since it was founded. This act introduced Medicare Advantage plans and the optional prescription drug Medicare benefit, Medicare Part D.

Have Medicare benefits already decreased under Trump?

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare spending has actually increased in the Trump presidency, not just in terms of dollars, which are subject to inflation, but in terms of percentages.

Some Medicare premiums also may be slightly lower now. According to CMS, the average Medicare Advantage premium 2019 is estimated to be $28 in 2019, down from $29.81 in 2018.

In terms of dollars, Medicare benefits totaled $702 billion in 2017, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

How can Trump cut Medicare benefits?

Although Trump represents one branch of government, the executive branch, his budget must be approved by Congress, the legislative branch. Typically by the first Monday in February, the president gives Congress his budget proposal for the next fiscal year. Congress then votes on a final budget. Medicare benefit cuts won’t go into effect unless Congress approves them.

It’s also important to know that Medicare falls into the “mandatory spending” category of the federal budget. Medicare benefits are a type of entitlement program which also includes Social Security and Medicaid. According to USA.gov, mandatory spending, including spending on Medicare benefits, typically uses over half of all funding.

How will cuts to Medicare benefits affect me?

You might imagine that cuts to Medicare benefits mean that fewer services will be covered and you’ll have to pay more out of pocket. Rather, according to Forbes, the proposed cuts would affect Medicare providers with little direct effect on beneficiaries.

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