Budget Conference Committee Opens Negotiations

The newly created bipartisan budget conference committee opened negotiations on Wednesday, October 30. The 29 member committee, made up of House and Senate leaders from both parties and led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA), has been charged with finding a path forward on Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 spending and finding alternative ways to reduce the deficit to replace sequestration, which will continue through 2021 if Congress does not take action. Currently, the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution through January 15, 2014, which keeps the same spending levels that were in place before the shutdown.

While expectations are tempered, and there seems to be little momentum for a “grand bargain,” both sides expressed optimism that finding common ground is achievable. But, it won’t be easy. House and Senate leaders remain about $91 billion apart on FY 2014 spending, and finding areas of agreement on replacements for sequestration’s automatic spending cuts will likely force lawmakers to have difficult discussions about politically sensitive issues, including:

  • Tax reform
  • Changes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other mandatory programs
  • Additional health care reforms
  • More targeted spending cuts to defense and non-defense programs (which include many health related programs)

The conference committee has a self-imposed deadline of December 13 to send a conference report of recommendations to the full Congress. If they are unable to reach an agreement, House and Senate leadership is expected to take over negotiations to work out at least another short-term funding extension beyond January 15.

The budget and sequestration are not the only big issues looming for Congress in the last couple of months of 2013. There are also a number of regular year-end priorities important to the Parkinson’s community that need to be addressed, including an extension of the Medicare therapy caps exceptions process, which is set to expire December 31 and ensures that people with Parkinson’s and other chronic illnesses have access to medically necessary therapy services.

Our Response
PAN sent a letter to all 29 members of the budget conference committee, urging them to end sequestration and to extend the Medicare therapy caps exceptions process. Our letter also discusses the importance of extending the Research and Development tax credit to incentivize medical innovation and expanding telemedicine services to more people in the Parkinson’s community, highlighting the opportunity we see for telemedicine to improve patient care and reduce health care costs.

PAN staff is already scheduling follow-up meetings with members of the committee, but we need your help to ensure every single Member of Congress understands that we cannot afford any more cuts to medical research funding and innovation – and we cannot allow people with Parkinson’s to be denied life-changing therapy services.

Take action today and tell your Members of Congress to end sequestration and support policies that strengthen research and Parkinson’s care.

 

Date originally posted: November 1, 2013.