Why Medicare Premiums Are Going Down

Why Medicare Premiums Are Going Down

Biden at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Good evening. Hurricane Ian made landfall on the west coast of Florida this afternoon as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds, just shy of the threshold for Category 5. The coming hours will tell what kind of damage and destruction the storm leaves in its path.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday warned “oil and gas industry executives” not to use the storm as an excuse to increase fuel prices. Biden noted that less than 2% of daily oil production in the U.S. will be affected by the storm. “If companies try to use this storm to raise prices at the pump, I will ask officials to look into whether price gouging is going on,” he said.

Here’s what else is going on.

Biden Announces Plan to End Hunger in the US by 2030

President Biden on Wednesday unveiled an $8 billion plan to end hunger and improve nutrition in the U.S by 2030, to be funded largely by donors across the country.

“Achieving our goals will require more than just the resources of the federal government,” the White House said in a fact sheet. “That’s why, this summer, the White House launched a nationwide call to action to meet the ambitious goals laid out by the President. Across the whole of society, Americans responded – and advanced more than $8 billion in private- and public-sector commitments.”

The administration said that about $2.5 billion of the pledged funds will go toward start-up companies looking for new solutions to hunger and food insecurity, and more than $4 billion will go to philanthropies focused on proper nutrition and exercise.

The White House highlighted more than 60 of the commitments it has received, including a $500 million pledge from food-giant Sysco to donate cash, food and employee volunteer time to local communities, and a promise by Warner Bros. Discovery to provide 600 million meals over the next year to children who are food-insecure. Google said it would launch a new product to make it easier for Americans to find and obtain public food benefits and health care services. And the nonprofit health care system Mass General Brigham pledged to build new “teaching kitchens” to provide fresh food and nutritional education in its community.

The White House also wants to do things like expand the food stamp program, provide more free school lunches and offer “medically tailored” meals through Medicare, but will need the cooperation of Congress to reach those goals.

"I really know we can do this, end hunger in this country by the year 2030 and lower the toll that diet-related diseases take on far too many Americans," Biden said at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. "This goal is within our reach, just look at how far we’ve come on child poverty.”

It will not be an easy take, however. Elaine Waxman of the Urban Institute told The New York Times that it will take “relentless focus” to meet the president’s goal. And with the end of the pandemic relief programs, the country is moving in the opposite direction. “We are rolling those programs back, even as food inflation is at extraordinary levels,” she said. “That is a choice that will accelerate food insecurity, not reduce it.”

Senate Set to Pass Funding Bill to Avert Shutdown

Congress is on track to avert a partial government shutdown with two days left until the deadline.

With lawmakers eager to get back to campaigning ahead of November’s elections, the Senate on Tuesday evening voted 72-23 to begin debate on a stopgap measure to fund the government until December 16. The vote came after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) agreed to remove his proposal for energy permitting reform, which faced opposition from both parties.

The funding bill, called a continuing resolution or CR, also includes $12.4 billion in aid for Ukraine, $4.5 billion for natural disaster response and $1 billion for heating homes this winter, among other provisions.

Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the CR should pass quickly.

“We must work fast to finish the process here on the floor, send a CR to the House, and then send it to the president’s desk before the clock runs out,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “With cooperation from our Republican colleagues, the Senate can finish its work of keeping the government open as soon as tomorrow. There is every reason in the world to get to yes, and I look forward to working with Leader McConnell to make sure we can do that and not bump up into the Friday midnight deadline.”

House GOP leaders urge a “no” vote: In an indication of the kind of fiscal brinkmanship that could follow if Republicans win control of the House in November, House GOP leaders are urging their members to vote against the continuing resolution. In a memo to colleagues, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) painted the move as payback for Democrats’ unwillingness to negotiate on a range of issues “including runaway inflation, the supply chain crisis, the border crisis, or the opioid deaths associated with drugs like fentanyl.” Scalise also objected to the duration of the CR, which he said would set up another funding showdown during the post-election lame duck session, when Democrats would still control the House. Republicans expect to win control of the chamber for the next Congress.

The bottom line: The funding bill is still expected to pass the House this week.

Medicare Part B Premiums to Drop in 2023: What’s Behind the Change?

President Biden on Tuesday touted a decrease in Medicare premium for next year. At a White House event, Biden repeated his campaign season warning that Republicans want to put Social Security and Medicare “on the chopping block” and pledged to protect the programs. He also celebrated an announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services that premiums for Medicare Part B will go down in 2023.

“For years, that fee has gone up. Now, for the first time in more than a decade, it’s going to go down. And millions of seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare, that means more money in their pockets while still getting the care they need,” he said.

Rachel Roubein of The Washington Post writes that “the reality is more complicated than that election-year sound bite.”

The reduction in premiums by 3% for 2023, she explains, will correct for a significantly larger hike this year that proved to be larger than needed. The 2022 hike of about 14.5% was announced amid uncertainty about the potential impact of an new Alzheimer’s drug called Aduhelm, which threatened to explode Medicare costs. That didn’t happen. The cost of the drug was cut roughly in half from an original $56,000 a year — and Medicare sharply limited coverage.

The changes involving the new drug were a major reason for Medicare’s lower 2023 premium.

Read more at The Washington Post.

Libertarian Group Sues to Stop the Biden Repayment Plan

A conservative group filed suit Tuesday to put a halt to the Biden administration’s student debt forgiveness plan. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a libertarian public interest law firm based in California, is the first out of the gate among conservative groups to challenge the plan.

Finding someone who could claim standing — that is, was actually harmed by the plan — has been a crucial challenge for groups seeking to overturn the rule. The plaintiff in the case is Frank Garrison, a PFL lawyer based in Indiana who claims that the plan will injure him because it will force him to pay more than $1,000 in state taxes on the $20,0000 in student loan debt he will have forgiven. Garrison says he would prefer to pay back his educational loans through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which dismisses the debt of those who work in the public sector for 10 years.

“Frank is not only somebody who is harmed by this, but he’s also somebody who believes the cancellation plan is deeply wrong,” Steve Simpson, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, told The Washington Post. “One really big difference between the program Frank is participating in and the Biden program is that one was passed by Congress.”

Caleb Kruckenberg, another attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, made a similar point, pointing to broad questions of legality. “Congress did not authorize the executive branch to unilaterally cancel student debt,” he said in a statement. “It’s flagrantly illegal for the executive branch to create a $500 billion program by press release, and without statutory authority or even the basic notice and comment procedure for new regulations.”

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that borrowers could opt out of the program if they so wished and that no one would be forced to apply.

Chart of the Day

Total inflation-adjusted wealth held by families in the United States tripled from 1989 to 2019, rising from $38 trillion to $115 trillion, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office — but the wealthiest families saw the biggest gains while the poorest half of Americans lost ground.

“The share of total wealth held by families in the top 10 percent of the distribution increased from 63 percent in 1989 to 72 percent in 2019, and the share of total wealth held by families in the top 1 percent of the distribution increased from 27 percent to 34 percent over the same period,” the report says. “By contrast, the share of total wealth held by families in the bottom half of the distribution declined over that period, from 4 percent to 2 percent.”


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