Bush Budget Might Include Medicare Physician Fee Fix
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Wednesday said that the budget President Bush will release next month might include a proposal to fix a scheduled Medicare physician fee cut, CongressDaily reports.
The 10.6% cut to Medicare physician fees is scheduled to go into effect on July 1 (Armstrong, CQ Today, 1/16).
Bush last month signed into law a bill that delayed the fee cut for six months and extends the State Children's Health Insurance Program through March 2009. The bill increased Medicare physician fees by 0.5% during that period and extended several programs that provide higher Medicare reimbursement rates to rural health care providers and hospital laboratories. In addition, the bill extended for six months rural and low-income subsidies, as well as payments for rehabilitative therapy under Medicare (California Healthline, 12/20/07).
Leavitt said that lawmakers cannot continue to patch the fee cut on "a six-month by six-month basis. Next year, we'll be staring down the barrel of a 15% reduction, and the year after that it's 20, and we have to solve this."
Bush for the first time is required by law to send a Medicare savings proposal to Congress after he proposes his budget because Medicare trustees last year triggered a "Medicare funding warning." The warning is issued when trustees for two consecutive years predict that federal revenues must be used to pay for 45% or more of total Medicare costs within seven years. Aides and lobbyists "say the White House's savings proposal could significantly alter Capitol Hill discussions surrounding Medicare and other health-related issues," CongressDaily reports (Edney, CongressDaily, 1/17).