Republicans Introduce Alternative Package for ‘Extenders’ Legislation
On Thursday, Senate Republicans offered a package of comprehensive alternative amendments to the "extenders" bill (HR 4213) that they say will cut overall spending and also reduce the federal deficit, CongressDaily reports.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the GOP package would cut the federal deficit by $54.9 billion over a decade and reduce overall spending by $113.1 billion (Cohn, CongressDaily, 6/11).
The House-passed extenders bill is projected to cost roughly $140 billion and add nearly $78 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade, according to CBO (California Healthline, 6/10).
The new GOP package, introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), would:
- Delay the scheduled 21% cut to physicians' Medicare payments through 2012, one year longer than the provision in the House bill;
- Redirect $8 billion for Medicaid payments to primary care physicians in 2013 and 2014 to a grant program that would let states increase primary care payments permanently;
- Eliminate the nearly $24 billion federal state Medicaid aid package, which Senate Democrats restored earlier this week;
- Include medical malpractice reforms that some physician groups have been lobbying for;
- Lower the affordability exemption for the individual coverage mandate in the new health reform law, from 8% to 5%, to save $11 billion;
- Omit an expanded prescription drug discount program from the Democrats' extenders bill, which Republicans described as "government-imposed price controls on prescription drugs"; and
- Provide $26 billion in net tax cuts, compared with $18 billion in tax increases in the Democrats' bill.
The GOP's proposal is expected to come to a vote early next week. While it could draw support from wavering moderates, it is not likely to have broad enough support for passage, according to CongressDaily. However, some Senate aides said that it could encourage enough senators to vote to end debate on the underlying bill (Cohn, CongressDaily, 6/10).
Obama Calls for Swift Action onÂ Bill
During a White House meeting on Thursday with Democratic and Republican leadership, President Obama called for swift action on the extenders bill.He said that lawmakers already have a "busy agenda" ahead of them, but noted that it "is important to give families confidence that they're going to be able to get back on their feet" and "also give businesses confidence in terms of what their tax structure's going to look like going forward" (Condon, CongressDaily, 6/10). 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.