GOP plans to overhaul Medicare in Trump's first year, top lawmaker says

The plan may not change Medicare for individuals 'in or near retirement'

House Budget Committee Chair Tom Price (R-Ga.) on Thursday said lawmakers could pursue legislation to overhaul Medicare "within the first six to eight months" of President-elect Donald Trump's administration.

According to Price, who is rumored to be on Trump's shortlist for HHS secretary, Republican lawmakers could seek to change Medicare through the budget reconciliation process for the fiscal year 2018 budget. The process allows legislation to advance through the Senate on a simple majority vote, without being subject to a potential filibuster.

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According to The Hill, Price's comments mark the first time a House Republican leader has said lawmakers are considering fast-tracking legislation in 2017 to change Medicare.

It is unclear what kind of changes Republicans will seek to make, The Hill reports. However, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who is working on legislative text for the changes, indicated they could be similar to those House Republicans proposed in a policy paper, called "A Better Way," released earlier this year.

The paper called for transitioning Medicare to a "premium-support" model, under which Americans who qualify for Medicare would receive government assistance to purchase private health plans or traditional Medicare coverage. The plan would not change Medicare for individuals "in or near retirement," but would incentivize current Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in managed care plans. Further, the plan would gradually increase the age at which U.S. residents become eligible for Medicare from 65 to 67 for individuals born in or after 1960.

Brady said, "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."

Trump's stance uncertain

Trump during the campaign "was notably unenthusiastic about significant reform of traditional entitlements," Advisory Board Chief Research Officer noted in a recent post.

Trump told Fox Business Network in May that he would keep Medicare "the way it is" if elected. Yet according to Trump's presidential transition website, the president-elect plans to "modernize Medicare, so that it will be ready for the challenges with the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation—and beyond," making it unclear what plan Trump might support (Ferris, The Hill, 11/17; Mershon, CQ News, 11/17 [subscription required]).

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