Committee Weighs New Strategies on Payroll Tax Cut, Medicare ‘Doc Fix’
The conference committee charged with developing an extension of the payroll tax cut and delaying scheduled reimbursement cuts to Medicare physicians is pursuing new approaches to stalled negotiations, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/6).
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who is heading up the conference committee, has called on conferees to focus on policy before discussing cost. The lawmakers must find more than $160 billion over 10 years to offset the extensions before the end of February, when the previous two-month agreement expires.
Though the committee has been able to establish some areas of consensus, it continues to spar over long-term jobless benefits, including a proposed requirement that recipients be subjected to drug screening and education requirements (Goldfarb, CQ HealthBeat, 2/3).
House, Senate Leaders Spar Over Negotiations
Frustrated with the pace of negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday said that his office has begun to draft alternative payroll tax/"doc fix" legislation. Aides said the bill would extend the tax cut and delay reimbursement cuts through the end of 2012.
Although the bill has little chance of passage, Democrats hope it will serve to highlight the issue and pressure Republicans. "I have the greatest confidence in my conferees, but I am not going to stand by while stalling takes place on the Republican side," Reid said (National Journal, 2/3).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) countered by asking Senate Democrats to "get serious" about the negotiations. "Senate Democrats have not actually presented a full plan," he said, adding, "You can't have a 'backup plan' if you haven't offered anything to back up" (Min Kim, "On Congress," Politico, 2/3).
Elections Could Push GOP To Agree to Funding 'Doc Fix' With War Savings
The pressure of the 2012 election season might encourage Republicans to vote for a plan they previously had deemed "bad policy," Politico reports (Sherman/Raju, Politico, 2/5).
According to The Hill's "Healthwatch," Republicans seem to be warming to the idea of paying for a longer-term doc fix with savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.