Provision for Medicare Commission Survives in Health Care Reform Bill
The Senate Finance Committee last week approved several changes to a proposal within its health reform bill that would create a new Medicare commission to rein in the program's spending growth despite opposition from some members to a few of the revisions, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Under the revised proposal, which included several amendments that were approved by the committee during the bill's markup, the commission would be a permanent entity instead of a temporary one that would be dissolved in 2019.
The Finance Committee's bill would create a commission with 15 members with health care backgrounds, who would be appointed by President Obama and serve six-year, staggered terms, according to CQ HealthBeat.
The commission -- which has been dubbed "MedPAC on steroids" -- would be required to implement policies starting in 2014 aimed at cutting the Medicare spending growth rate by at least 1.5% annually. If that goal is not met, the proposal would authorize the HHS secretary to implement a cumulative reduction in Medicare provider payments to make up the difference.
The proposal would give Congress 30 days to review the cost-cutting plan, but would require a two-thirds majority to override it.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that such a commission could reduce Medicare spending growth by $23 billion from 2015 to 2019.
Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) factored in those predicted savings as a means of keeping the bill deficit neutral and reducing the chance that Republicans might try to eliminate the proposal in favor of an alternative cost-saving plan, CQ HealthBeat reports.
An amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to eliminate the proposal was rejected by the panel on a 13-8 vote (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 9/28).
Democratic Aides Express Optimism on Timeline
A senior Democratic aide last week said that Baucus hopes to complete markup of the draft bill by Thursday or Friday, Roll Call reports.Some aides also expressed optimism that a Senate floor vote could be scheduled for the week of Oct. 12 but noted that several factors -- including how quickly CBO can score the bill -- could delay a vote (Pierce/Drucker, Roll Call, 9/28). 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.