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Congress Nears Budget Deal That Benefits People with MS

October 28, 2015

October 28, 2015
The National MS Society is pleased that Congressional leaders appear to have reached a bipartisan budget deal that contains several provisions beneficial to people affected by MS. With a November 3rd deadline to raise the debt ceiling approaching, congressional leaders and the Administration are taking the opportunity to also address budget constraints that have been impeding investments to vital programs and medical research, as well as avoid dangerous cuts to Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the deal today, allowing the Senate to vote by the November 3 deadline.
The budget deal:
  • Lifts Restrictive Budget Caps through Fiscal Year 2017: The 2011 Budget Control Act imposed strict budget caps and cuts (also known as sequestration) that have impeded government investment in many areas.One noteable example that impacts  the MS community is research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). There was a bipartisan deal in 2013 that lessened the negative impact, but the cuts were expected to come back in full force starting in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The budget deal that Congress has reached raises post-sequestration spending caps, allowing for elimination of about 90 percent of the sequestration cuts for non-defense discretionary funding (such as at the NIH) and defense programs in FY 2016 and about 60 percent in FY 2017. 
  • Greatly Reduces the Chance of a Government Shutdown through 2017: By stabilizing the budget situation, it is far less likely that a government shutdown will happen in the next two years.
  • Protects Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits: The budget deal avoids an up to 20% benefit cut that SSDI beneficiaries faced. The budget dealdoes a common reallocation of funds from the main Social Security trust fund that will keep SSDI in good fiscal order through 2022. It also includes other SSDI provisions including: new demonstration projects to test reducing Social Security’s overall cost, making it easier for beneficiaries to find work and enhanced program integrity measures designed to avoid waste, fraud and abuse in the system.
  • Avoids Medicare Part B Premium Increases: The deal averts projected increases of over 52% in annual deductibles plus separate increases in premiums, for roughly 30% of enrollees in Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B helps pay for doctor and other healthcare services provided outside of the hospital. Although most people with MS would not have been directly impacted by these increases, it is relieving that neither they nor state Medicaid programs that would have faced significant cost increases for low-income enrollees will be forced to pay more in 2016. 
UPDATE: The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have both passed the bill. As of October 30, 2015 the bill is on it's way to President Obama.


About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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