Frist Hopes To Address Medicare Doctor Payments
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Monday said that he seeks to attach a proposal to reverse a scheduled Medicare physician reimbursement reduction to a business tax bill for passage this week during the lame-duck session, CongressDaily reports (Johnson/Bourge, CongressDaily, 12/4). Medicare physician reimbursements will decrease by 5.1% in January 2007 without congressional action during the lame-duck session, which likely will end this week (California Healthline, 12/4).
Frist said that at least four different proposals to reverse the Medicare physician reimbursement reduction are under consideration (Johnson, CongressDaily, 12/5). One of the proposals would reverse Medicare physician reimbursement reduction in 2007 but at least double the reduction in 2008 to cover the cost (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 12/4).
According to The Hill, lawmakers "are weighing a lengthy list of possible add-ons to the Medicare physician payments legislation," such as provisions that involve nursing homes, physical therapists, medical device companies, rural health care facilities and kidney dialysis providers. The provisions have "a collective price tag approaching $20 billion, and there appear to be few available offsets that do not spark strenuous objections from health care interests" or the Bush administration, The Hill reports (Young, The Hill, 12/5).
According to CQ HealthBeat, the list of potential funding reductions to offset the cost of a reversal of the Medicare physician reimbursement reduction has "lengthened, but lobbyists voiced much skepticism that some of them would come into play, notably a provision to trim payment increases to hospitals." Other potential funding reductions under consideration include a freeze on Medicare reimbursements to payments for hospice and home health providers (CQ HealthBeat, 12/4).
Frist also said that he plans to move to the Senate floor this week a bill that would provide HHS with authority over the response of the federal government to public health emergencies, CongressDaily reports. The legislation would authorize more than $1 billion in federal funds for HHS preparedness grants and would require all states to provide some matching funds by 2009.
In addition, the bill would update a 2002 law "to deal with the threat of an avian flu epidemic and the lessons of Hurricane Katrina," CongressDaily reports. Frist said, "I think on the Senate side, we're OK, but I'm not sure on the House side yet" (CongressDaily, 12/4).
In other congressional news, Senate Republican leaders "are closing in on a possible deal" on the fiscal year 2007 Military Construction-VA appropriations bill, CQ Today reports. The legislation, as well as a continuing resolution to finance most federal agencies until mid-February 2007, "could move this week" along with a continuing resolution to finance most federal agencies until mid-February 2007, according to CQ Today.
Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) have blocked a conference committee on the Military Construction-VA appropriations bill because of concerns that some lawmakers would use the legislation to "pass an earmark-laden omnibus," but "pressure has been building to finish the bill, with veterans' groups angry at the prospect of a budget crunch for veterans' health benefits and other programs unless additional money is forthcoming soon," CQ Today reports (Dennis, CQ Today, 12/4).