Tax Legislation Proceeds Without Medicare Package
Legislation that would prevent middle-class U.S. residents from paying the alternative minimum tax heads to the House floor on Wednesday, but it does not contain Medicare provisions that would delay a scheduled 10% physician fee cut, CongressDaily reports.
The House's decision to move forward with the AMT measure "derails one of the best vehicles for a Medicare package this year and increases the likelihood" that the Medicare physician fee cut will take effect Jan. 1, 2008, according to CongressDaily (Vaughan/Johnson, CongressDaily, 12/12).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Tuesday said that "Medicare probably has to go with AMT" because the measure is "very bipartisan" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 12/11). However, Baucus and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) were unable to reach an agreement on a Medicare package during negotiations on Tuesday (CongressDaily, 12/12).
According to Baucus, funding the Medicare physician fee fix would be "very difficult" without cuts to Medicare Advantage plans. However, the Bush administration has threatened to veto any legislation that reduces payments to MA plans.
Baucus said a Medicare package that does not include cuts to MA plans would "put pressure on some other potential provider cuts in order to pay for doctors and also to pay for some other things that a lot of people want" (CQ HealthBeat, 12/11). Baucus is seeking suggestions from White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton on how serious President Bush is about vetoing a Medicare package that contains MA plan cuts. "The White House made it clear, at least they say -- I don't know how accurate this is, I don't know what the president really thinks is," Baucus said (CongressDaily, 12/11).
According to CQ Today, the Senate still could attach the Medicare package to the AMT measure after the House takes action on the legislation (Armstrong, CQ Today, 12/11). Lawmakers and aides said that the Medicare package still could move this year as part of an omnibus spending bill or as stand-alone legislation (CongressDaily, 12/12).
Meanwhile, Baucus said a Medicare package might be "pushed off until next year, frankly." If that were to happen, Congress could approve legislation that would stop the fee cut retroactively (CQ Today, 12/11).