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Key Senators Propose Health, Education Cuts to Pay for Roads and Bridges

August 3, 2021

Congressional negotiators in the Senate have agreed to extend certain Medicare Part B cuts and rescind previously approved education funds to help pay for legislation to fund improvements to America’s aging infrastructure, which ASHA strongly opposes.

The health care cuts—which are the result of a 2011 law requiring automatic reductions in programs, such as Medicare, to impose fiscal restraint on federal spending (referred to as sequestration)—are currently slated to resume in 2022 and continue through 2030. Senators are considering extending those cuts beyond their currently scheduled expiration date to defray the cost of improvements to infrastructure such as roads and bridges. The education cuts would claw-back more than $353 million in Education Stabilization Fund resources designed to help higher education institutions address the COVID-19 pandemic, including the needs of students most impacted by the disruption to their education.

While ASHA certainly supports the principle of investing in our nation’s infrastructure, ASHA does not support that investment literally coming at the expense of audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) being able to provide essential services. Recently, ASHA coordinated a joint letter [PDF] to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging them to reject proposals to extend these arbitrary across-the-board cuts to pay for infrastructure legislation. The letter, signed by the American Physical Therapy Association and American Occupational Therapy Association, emphasized that extending these cuts will do “nothing to improve health care.”

The latest action builds upon ASHA’s ongoing efforts to stop Medicare payment cuts. ASHA has aggressively advocated through meetings with House and Senate members, supporting members of Congress [PDF] who introduced legislation to prevent the cuts, signing letters [PDF] urging extension of a moratorium on the cuts, and participating in coalition efforts [PDF] to delay the cuts through the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. ASHA also supported legislation Congress passed and President Biden signed into law in April to delay these cuts through the end of 2021.

Without further congressional intervention, the Medicare cuts will resume next year. If the funding is used to pay for America’s infrastructure, the cuts would be extended through 2031. ASHA will continue working with allied stakeholders to encourage Congress to scrap resumption or extension of these harmful reductions to Medicare payments, and to support efforts to preserve funding for educational institutions to address the disruptions experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Questions?

Contact Jerry White, ASHA’s director of federal and political affairs, at jwhite@asha.org.


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