California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House Republicans To Tie SGR Repeal to Individual Mandate Delay

House Republicans are planning to bring to the floor a bill that would permanently repeal Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula and pay for it by delaying the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, according to House Republican aides, The Hill's "Floor Action" reports (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action," The Hill, 3/6).

According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, a one-year delay to the individual mandate would save around $9 billion over a decade. CBO also has estimated that a bipartisan plan to repeal the SGR would cost around $138 billion over the next 10 years. Republican aides have said that to pay for the SGR repeal, the bill could delay the individual mandate for as long as 10 years (Newhauser, "218," Roll Call, 3/6).

Combining the two issues could make a vote on the measure particularly difficult for Democrats, who would have to choose between supporting a long-term fix to the SGR -- which is a popular, bipartisan issue -- and opposing a measure that could cripple President Obama's signature law ("Floor Action," The Hill, 3/6).

Even if the bill passes the House, it is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, which means Congress would once again have to implement another short-term fix to avoid deep cuts to physician reimbursements when the current fix expires on March 31. According to Politico, House leaders are leaning toward proposing a nine-month patch (Haberkorn, Politico, 3/6).

Groups Push for Permanent 'Doc Fix'

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting for lawmakers to enact a permanent "doc fix" by the end of the month, with a coalition of health care providers on Thursday submitting a letter to lawmakers saying a short-term fix "would do little to reduce uncertainty for providers," The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

The letter, which was put together by the National Coalition on Health Care, added that a "9-, 12- or 21-month 'doc fix'" would also not help Medicare "beneficiaries and [would] do nothing to curb long-term growth in health costs." It concluded, "Having advanced so far towards a permanent reform, failure to act now could dim the prospects for such legislation later this year and for years to come" (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/6).

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