AARP 'strongly supports' budget deal

Greg Nash

The powerful seniors lobby AARP announced Tuesday it will back a two-year budget deal that will go up for a vote as early as Wednesday.

AARP praised the plan, which was largely negotiated between the White House and GOP leadership, for averting major cuts in Social Security disability payments and a premium spike for Medicare Part B premiums.

“Your efforts to reach across the aisle and together find sensible solutions to significant problems are appreciated and commended,” Jo Ann C. Jenkins, the group’s chief executive, wrote in a letter to Congress that was obtained by The Hill.

House and Senate Republicans have said entitlement reforms are a major piece of the deal, though Democrats have maintained that there are no cuts to beneficiaries. 

A key piece of the budget agreement — and one of its costliest provisions — staves off a 52 percent premium hike that would have hit 8 million Medicare Part B enrollees next year. The hike is the result of a glitch in federal benefits law, and the fix is estimated to cost nearly $8 billion.

The deal would also prevent a 20 percent, across-the-board cut in Social Security disability benefits for 11 million people next year, the result of a quickly drying-up trust fund.

But in addition to averting those increases, the measure would make some GOP-led changes to both the disability and Medicare programs. For example, it creates a new investigative unit to go after fraud and increases penalties on those who commit fraud in the system.

It also makes it tougher for new Social Security recipients to enroll, requiring two doctors, instead of one, to confirm that an individual has a disability.