GOP Considering Using Funding From Overhaul on Medicare Payment Fix
Republicans are considering a strategy for next year's Congress that would secure a long-term fix for the Medicare physician payment formula by defunding certain provisions in the federal health reform law, Politico reports (Kliff, Politico, 12/5).
Latest 'Doc Fix' DevelopmentsÂ
At the end of November, Congress passed a bill postponing for one month a scheduled 23% cut to Medicare physician payment rates.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who crafted the one-month delay, have pledged to develop a 12-month postponement that would allow time to create a new payment system.
Changing the current formula is expected to cost $300 billion over 10 years. If Congress does not act on another postponement before Jan. 1, 2011, a 25% Medicare payment cut for physicians will take effect (California Healthline, 11/30).
If Congress cannot approve a longer-term "doc fix" before the end of the current session, Republicans in the next session might target undesirable health reform provisions and pull their funding to fund doc fix legislation.
For example, GOP Senate aides said that Republicans are considering taking money from the reform law's $15 billion public health commitment. The provision, which among other things invests in bike paths and farmers markets, has been criticized by Republicans as wasteful spending.
Other observers have suggested using money intended for subsidies to help U.S. residents purchase health coverage to fund a long-term doc fix, which essentially would push back the start of a major provision of the health reform law.
The GOP's potential strategy puts Democrats under pressure to address the Medicare payment cuts before the end of the current congressional session. However, Democrats have not yet agreed on how to offset the estimated $19 billion a yearlong doc fix would cost (Politico, 12/5).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.