McConnell Anticipates Support for GOP Plan That Includes ‘Doc Fix’
On "Fox News Sunday," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said a payroll tax break extension proposed last week by House Republicans likely will receive support from a number of Senate Democrats, the Washington Post's "2chambers" reports (Sonmez, "2chambers," Washington Post, 12/11).
Background on GOPÂ Proposal
The plan -- the latest in a series of payroll tax break proposals from both parties -- would extend a $1,000 payroll tax break that is set to expire at the end of 2011.
It also includes a two-year "doc fix" to stave off scheduled cuts to Medicare physician reimbursement rates. The most recent "doc fix" bill, enacted in December 2010, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 1, 2012, at which point physicians face a nearly 30% payment rate cut. The payroll tax extension instead would increase reimbursement rates by 1% over the next two years.
The plan would pay for the $38 billion fix in part by limiting Medicare benefits 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, 12/9).
McConnell Expects Bipartisan Support
McConnell said, "There are a significant number of Democratic senators and House members who are going to support his package."
However, some Democratic leaders have criticized the bill for a provision aimed at pushing ahead the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline project ("2chambers," Washington Post, 12/11).
Further, the cost of the package could hinder negotiations. Maintaining the tax at the current level for a year would cost about $120 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office (Pear, New York Times, 12/11).
CMS Could Delay Rate Cut
CMS could briefly delay the impending Medicare physician payment rate cut if Congress appears to be on pace to reach an agreement on a doc fix before Jan. 1, Politico reports. CMS previously has held physician payments for a brief period while lawmakers finalized deals to delay rate cuts.
However, former CMS Administrator Tom Scully, who delayed payments in 2003, said the strategy is "definitely a nightmare." He said, "Docs don't get paid, and CMS gets millions and millions of claims backed up." He said that it is a "bigger nightmare" for CMS to send out reduced claims and then send physicians additional payments later when lawmakers pass a pay increase (Feder, Politico, 12/11).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.