Lawmakers Seek Smooth Passage of Longer-Term Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ Bill
On Tuesday, House Democrats and Republicans returned to Congress with renewed hope for the smooth passage of a measure that would extend a payroll tax cut and delay reductions to physician Medicare reimbursements for one year, before the current two-month measure expires at the end of February, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, both parties have agreed to concessions to facilitate the passage of the yearlong measure, which has stalled over proposals on how to pay for it. Republicans say they no longer plan to pursue certain non-health care provisions in a House-approved plan (HR 3630) that Democrats oppose. Meanwhile, Democrats have distanced themselves from a proposal to raise taxes on high-income individuals to offset the cost (Weisman, New York Times, 1/17).
Hoyer Hopes for Deal by End of January
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said he believes the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee charged with developing a longer-term payroll tax cut extension and Medicare "doc fix" measure could issue a "pre-conference" report by the end of January, National Journal reports (House, National Journal, 1/17).
Hoyer also predicted that the measure would be approved no later than mid-February, adding that he hopes lawmakers will not wait until the last minute to resolve the issues (Kim, Politico, 1/17).
AHA Wants Action on Doc Fix
The American Hospital Association on Tuesday issued an action alert to members asking them to petition lawmakers to take concrete action against looming cuts to physician Medicare payments, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
The group noted that postponing the action further would cost about $30 billion for each year of delay and suggested that lawmakers might try to obtain the money from hospitals to cover the cost.
According to "Healthwatch," AHA outlined several "issues of serious concern to hospitals" that emerged during last year's negotiations, which culminated in the two-month measure, including:
- Reduced payments to hospitals for assistance to low-income Medicare beneficiaries that result in bad debt;
- Reduced payments for evaluation and management services provided in hospital outpatient departments;
- An extension of the current limit on therapy services to hospital outpatient services, alongside another cap on services provided in nursing homes and other freestanding facilities;
- Weakened rules against the development of physician-owned specialty clinics; and
- Providing CMS the authority to make additional across-the-board cuts to Medicare inpatient hospital rates through retroactive cuts for fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012 (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/17).