GOP Leader: Medicare Bill Requires Unanimous Consent
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week said that any Medicare bill coming to the chamber floor this week must pass by unanimous consent, CongressDaily reports.
Lawmakers are crafting legislation that aims to reverse a 10% physician fee cut, scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2008 (Johnson, CongressDaily, 12/14). Lead Senate negotiators say that a bill should be completed before the end of this legislative session, but the measure likely will contain only the bare essentials, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 12/14).
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Thursday said that Republicans would only accept a package that alters current policy and will oppose any measure creating new policy.
A one-year patch of the physician fee cuts could be paid for by cutting about $8 billion in Medicare Advantage payments for medical education, according to CongressDaily.
In addition, Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has indicated that lawmakers also could offset the measure by cutting about $1.5 billion from a "stabilization fund" created under the Medicare prescription drug benefit to attract preferred provider organization plans to underserved areas. Republicans have said that a bare-bones package funded by those cuts would provide enough money to delay the physician fee cut but not to increase physician fees or expand rural and low-income subsidy programs (CongressDaily, 12/14).
Baucus on Friday said that Congress "will definitely have a Medicare bill this year," adding, "What it is, I don't know. Bare bones" (CQ HealthBeat, 12/14). According to Baucus, the package "is looking more and more minimalist all the time" (CongressDaily, 12/14).
Grassley said, "We are still working on it. We don't know what can get through the Senate because at this point we're told by leadership that we better have something that's gonna get unanimous consent" (CQ HealthBeat, 12/14).