House Democrats Offer Recommendations to Debt-Reduction Panel
On Thursday, House Democrats from 16 committees sent their deficit-reduction recommendations to the debt panel, saying it should avoid cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and allow implementation of the federal health reform law to continue, Politico reports (Kim/DoBias, Politico, 10/13).
Background on Debt Panel
As part of the federal budget agreement, the 12-member panel -- also known as the "supercommittee" -- must develop and pass by the end of November $1.5 trillion in federal spending cuts over 10 years. Failure to do so would trigger a series of across-the-board cuts.
The panel had asked House and Senate committees to submit their ideas by the end of this week (California Healthline, 10/13).
Details of Democrats' Recommendations
Democrats said the panel should go beyond the required $1.5 trillion in cuts and achieve even more savings.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called House Democrats' recommendations "[b]ig, bold and balanced" (Cook et al., National Journal, 10/13).
House Democrats called on the debt panel to:
- Maintain the current Medicare eligibility age;
- Avoid shifting costs for entitlements to states or beneficiaries;
- Reduce waste, fraud and abuse in government health programs;
- Require pharmaceutical companies to provide rebates for individuals eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, in addition to elderly residents in a low-income subsidy program;
- Eliminate agreements between brand-name drugmakers and generic manufacturers to delay the release of generic drugs;
- Allow the HHS secretary to negotiate lower Medicare prescription drug prices;
- Allow the Office of Personnel Management to contract with pharmacy benefit managers to secure lower drug prices for the federal employees' health system; and
- Maintain the Prevention and Public Health Fund established by the reform law (Ethridge, CQ Today, 10/13).
The Democrats also said that any savings achieve through the recommendations should go toward fixing the sustainable growth rate formula that determines Medicare physician reimbursements (Politico, 10/13). Since 2002, Congress annually has passed a series of short-term bills to block scheduled cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates under the SGR. The most recent "doc-fix" bill, enacted in December 2010, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, 2012, at which point physicians face a 29.4% payment rate cut (California Healthline, 10/7).
Republican Offers Recommendation
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas) offered one recommendation to the debt panel. He said the committee should adopt GOP legislation that would overhaul the medical malpractice system. The bill would cap non-economic awards at $250,000, limit those who can be found liable for damages and restrict the amount of time during which a lawsuit can be filed (CQ Today, 10/13).
Hospital Advocacy Groups Offer Recommendations
The groups criticized proposals to combine different federal medical assistance percentages for Medicaid into a single "blended rate," as well as a plan to limit states' use of provider taxes.
The groups wrote, "Sound policy changes would reduce the overall costs in the health care system -- not simply shift existing and growing costs onto states, providers and beneficiaries, and damaging the nation's already fragile economy."
The groups that signed the letter were the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Catholic Health Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the National Association of Children's Hospitals, the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, the Premier alliance and VHA (Daly, Modern Healthcare, 10/13).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.