House Passes ‘Doc Fix’ Measure; Senate Not Likely To Approve Bill
On Tuesday, the House voted 234-193 to pass a payroll tax cut extension (HR 3630), which included a two-year delay to scheduled cuts to Medicare physician reimbursements, the New York Times reports (Pear/Steinhauer, New York Times, 12/14).
The bill -- developed by House GOP members â"- would extend a $1,000 payroll tax break that is set to expire at the end of 2011. Meanwhile, the "doc fix" would stave off a nearly 30% cut to Medicare physician payment rates that is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2012. Instead, the legislation would increase reimbursement rates by 1% over the next two years.
The plan would pay for the $38 billion fix in part by increasing Medicare premiums for high-income beneficiaries and by redirecting funding from the federal health reform law that was intended for prevention and public health services (California Healthline, 12/13).
The bill now moves to the Senate, where its chances for passage are slim, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 12/13).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the bill is dead on arrival (AP/Washington Post, 12/14). Senate Democrats worry that the cost of the tax break extension will fall on middle-income residents under the House plan and have instead proposed a surtax on high-income individuals to cover the expense (Jackson, USA Today, 12/13).
Politico reports that Senate Democrats originally planned to vote against the House plan and then develop their own proposal for extending the tax break, but now might work to change certain parts of the House bill.
Some lawmakers said that if the GOP agrees to eliminate a provision that would push ahead the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline project and if Democrats agree not to levy a surtax on high-income individuals, the parties could soon reach an agreement on a revised plan (Sherman/Raju, Politico, 12/13).
President Obama has said he would veto any proposal that includes the oil pipeline provision (USA Today, 12/13).
Hospitals Lobby Against GOP Plan
A group of health care providers recently sent a letter to lawmakers saying the GOP payroll tax break proposal would limit patients' access to care by reducing Medicare hospital payments by $17 billion, Modern Healthcare reports.
The letter stated, "Specifically, the bill would reduce hospital outpatient payments by drastically cutting payments for evaluation and management services by $6.8 billion." It added, "These services are among the most common outpatient services provided in hospitals.
House Republicans responded to the letter by noting that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission endorsed cutting the payments to offset a doc fix. Further, the House Ways and Means Committee provided a summary showing the proposal would reduce beneficiaries' Medicare Part B premiums by about $1.7 billion and cut their copayments by more than $11 per visit (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 12/13).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.