Hopes Dim for Deal to Avert Medicare Premium Spikes

The window is closing for congressional leaders to avert the double-digit premium hikes that are set to hit 8 million Medicare enrollees next year.

Congress has only a handful of weeks to prevent the 52 percent premium hikes — the largest in the program’s history — that will harm seniors and drain state budgets. And with a key deadline missed on Thursday, aides of both parties say a deal between House leaders by year’s end is becoming less likely.

After some initial optimism for an agreement between House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), things have since grinded to a near halt, according to several people familiar with the talks. Any hopes of a deal have dropped out of sight until likely December, when the same leaders must approve a government spending bill.

“I think it will be a part of the government spending discussion, especially since Pelosi seems to have this as a priority. I think she’ll be pretty insistent,” a Democratic aide said.

That outcome — if it can be reached — would mean months of uncertainty for millions of Part B enrollees trapped in the crosshairs of a federal benefits policy glitch.