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Senate Passes Budget Bill Without Major Asset Transfer Changes

  • November 4th, 2005

The Senate has narrowly passed a budget reconciliation bill that does not include major changes to Medicaid's asset transfer rules.

The House is expected to vote next week on its own version of the budget bill, which includes far deeper Medicaid cuts. That version still contains significant changes to the transfer rules, including an extension of the "lookback" period for asset transfers, a change in the start of the penalty period for transferred assets, and the denial of Medicaid long-term care coverage to applicants with more than $500,000 in home equity. Following next week's vote, a conference committee is expected to convene late in the week or early the following week.

The bill approved by the Senate does attempt to "reform" certain Medicaid asset transfer rules, including the treatment of annuities and life estates.

The Senate's 52-47 vote was on a bill that includes about $10 billion in spending reductions to Medicare and Medicaid, although the cuts largely protect beneficiaries, while wresting most of the savings from drug companies, pharmacies and insurance subsidies.

One provision could draw a White House veto. The measure achieves about $5.4 billion in savings over five years by phasing out a fund created to encourage insurers to offer prescription drug coverage under the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. The White House has threatened to veto any bill that contains this provision.

Another danger area is a provision permitting exploratory oil drilling in the Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Five Republicans in the Senate who oppose the drilling voted against the bill. House GOP leaders may drop the oil drilling plan and revisit it in when the House and Senate bills are reconciled in conference committee. The Associated Press reports that so many GOP lawmakers are unhappy with the bill in general "that Republican leaders say it will have to be reworked before a final vote in the full House."

The Senate bill would make the first cuts to mandatory programs since 1997 while retaining $70 billion in tax cuts. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) called the bill "a reflection of the Republican Congress's commitment to pursue a path of fiscal responsibility." The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid (D-Nev.), called the budget "an immoral document" that "harms vulnerable Americans to provide another round of large tax breaks for the elite of this country, special interests and multimillionaires."

To read S.1932, the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:S.1932: For the provisions affecting transfer rules and long-term care partnership programs, scroll down to Chapter 2, Sec 6011.

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Last Modified: 11/04/2005

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