What the 'Sequester' Could Mean for You. How the Budget Cuts Will Affect Social Security, Medicare and More


by Kim Keister

In Spanish | Here we go again: Congress and the White House simply can't get past their budget differences.

At this point, the nation is no longer facing a single trigger point that would unleash economic calamity. Instead, with no deal in sight, we face a series of them:

  • March 1 — The "sequester" — a very large remnant of the deal that averted the "fiscal cliff" at the beginning of the year — kicked in and could cut a whopping $85 billion from military and domestic programs this year.

  • March 27 — Funding to continue running the country expires, meaning the government shuts down.

  • May 18 — Uncle Sam again hits the debt ceiling, meaning we can't borrow more money. Come July or August, we'll be facing default.

The most pressing question right now: What impact will the sequester have? No one really wants these cuts, but neither has anybody come up with the silver bullet to stop them.

So here's what you should know:

I'm on Medicare. What happens to my benefits?

Good news. No change in Medicare benefits, including Part D low-income premium and cost-sharing subsidies and catastrophic subsidy payments.

Will Medicare pay my doctor for my visit?
Yes, your doctor will still be paid, but not quite as much. Like all Medicare providers, doctors will take a 2 percent cut in payments. That won't please the docs, but let's hope it isn't enough to make yours — or any of them — drop Medicare patients.

Will anything happen to my Social Security payments?
No worries here either. Social Security and disability payments were exempt from the budget cuts. On the other hand, the Social Security Administration might reduce services to the public, close some offices and watch its already epic backlog of disability claims grow even bigger.

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