Congress has passed a two-year budget agreement, the first in a divided Congress in more than a quarter century. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), actually increases discretionary spending just slightly above $1 trillion for Fiscal Year 2014 and replaces some sequestration cuts over the next two years.
Although the budget deal sets the broad parameters for spending for the next two years, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees must still come together quickly to determine exactly how much funding each agency and program will receive. Work is already underway to redraft appropriations bills and will continue throughout the remainder of December and into early next year. Congressional leaders are confident that they will have an appropriations package ready before January 15, the expiration date of the current continuing resolution.
Congress also included a three-month extension of the therapy caps exceptions process  in the budget agreement. Had Congress not voted to extend the exceptions process before December 31, people with Parkinson’s would not have been covered by Medicare for physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy in 2014 once the cap of $1,920 was reached.
In years past, Congress has passed year-long extensions of the exceptions process. However, this year is different – for the first time, there is significant movement in Congress to remove the therapy caps altogether. There is currently a bill in the Senate that would repeal the therapy caps and replace them with a system that would allow for more targeted reviews of therapy use instead of the current arbitrary monetary caps. Because Congress did not have time to pass the repeal before the expiration of the exceptions process, they passed the three-month extension to allow for more time for agreement in the New Year.
PAN is thrilled that a permanent repeal of the Medicare therapy caps could be within reach for the first time in nearly 20 years. We are committed to making access to medically necessary physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy a reality for people with Parkinson’s, but we will need your help! We will reach out when it is a good time to contact your Members of Congress.
Because the final deal includes overall increases for non-defense spending, PAN sees opportunities for at least limited increases for programs that are critically important to the Parkinson’s community). It is essential that we speak out now to strengthen funding for the National Institutes of Health , the Food and Drug Administration , and the Department of Defense Parkinson’s research program  - all of which support efforts to deliver new treatments to people with Parkinson’s.
Contact your Members of Congress today  to tell them to strengthen these important programs!
Date originally posted: December 18, 2013.