Committees Unveil Bill To Raise Medicare Payments Until 2013
On Thursday, Democratic leaders on the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees released a summary and finalized legislative text of the so-called "extenders" bill (HR 4213), which would raise doctors' Medicare reimbursements by 1% to 2% annually through 2013, Politico reports (Haberkorn, Politico, 5/20).
The provision scales back a previously proposed plan for a five-year "fix" that drew opposition from physicians and raised concern among patient advocates and lawmakers (Rubin/Schatz, CQ Today, 5/20).
Medicare Payment Details
Under the newly released bill, physicians' Medicare reimbursements would increase by 1.3% this year and an additional 1% in 2011. In 2012 and 2013, payments for physicians that offer primary care and preventive services would increase at the same rate as the gross domestic product at the time plus 2%, while other physicians would receive a payment hike of the GDP rate plus 1%.
According to Politico, the bill would increase physicians' payments by nearly $60 billion over the next three years to offset a planned 21% cut, which was approved last month and is scheduled to take effect on June 1 (Politico, 5/20).
After 2013, the payment formula would revert back to the current formula, which means physicians would face payment cuts unless lawmakers intervened, The Hill reports (Pecquet, The Hill, 5/20).
The bill also includes:
- A six-month extension to the temporary increase in state Medicaid funding, or the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, which was scheduled to expire at the end of 2010. The FMAP extension would cost about $24 billion over 10 years; andÂ
- A benefit and eligibility extension for COBRA coverage and a series of tax cuts and subsidies to help certain people obtain health insurance (Rubin/Schatz, CQ Today, 5/20). The COBRA subsidy, which would pay 65% of the health insurance for jobless workers through 2010, is estimated to cost $7.8 billion over 10 years (Ethridge, CQ Today, 5/20).
Cost of Package Balloons in Five Months
The package has grown from $31 billion when first conceived in December to nearly $200 billion today. Although the Joint Committee on Taxation has issued a score on the tax elements of the package, the Congressional Budget Office has yet to release its full cost analysis.
Only $59 billion of the bill's costs are expected to be offset, because safety-net spending for COBRA, Medicaid and unemployment is treated as emergency spending and the physician Medicare payment change is exempt under new pay/go rules enacted this year.
Timeline for Bill Unclear
Thursday's release of the bill means that further action on the bill would be delayed until next week. The delay could complicate Democratsâ efforts to clear the measure before the start of the Memorial Day recess at the end of next week (Rubin/Schatz, CQ Today, 5/20).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.