Tentative Deal Reached To Delay Medicare Pay Reductions for One Year
On Monday, aides to the Senate Democratic and Republican leadership and top staff members on the Senate Finance Committee said they reached a tentative agreement on a one-year, $19.2 billion delay to Medicare physician payment cuts scheduled for Jan. 1, CQ Today reports (Ethridge, CQ Today, 12/6).
Congress recently approved legislation (HR 5712) that delayed until Jan. 1 a 23% cut to Medicare physician payment rates scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1. The legislation included a 2.2% payment increase to physicians that would be funded through payment reductions for therapy services.
If Congress failed to act on another postponement before Jan. 1, a 25% cut to physicians' Medicare reimbursements would take effect (California Healthline, 11/30).
Details of New Package
Much of the cost of the new extension package would be offset by recouping health coverage subsidy overpayments (DoBias/McCarthy, National Journal Daily, 12/6). Under the provision, individuals who experience a change in income status midyear -- such as unemployed workers who obtain employment -- would have to repay a portion of the subsidy they received to help purchase health coverage (Haberkorn, Politico, 12/6).
Funding also would come from reductions to the Medicare Improvement Fund and other cuts (National Journal Daily, 12/6).
The new plan is expected to be a part of a broader measure designed to extend other Medicare provisions that are scheduled to expire later this month (CQ Today, 12/6).
Finance Committee members are seeking to fast-track the proposal for a floor vote as early as Wednesday, when it is expected to pass by unanimous consent (National Journal Daily, 12/6).
CQ Today notes that if the plan can pass through the Senate without opposition, it likely also would pass easily in the House. If approved in both chambers, the extension plan would be the fifth -- and longest -- "doc fix" in the previous year (CQ Today, 12/6).
Plan Could Face Some Pushback
According to Politico, the plan could face some opposition from liberal Democrats in the House or Senate, many of whom likely would oppose taking funds away from tax subsidies in the federal health reform law.
However, Democrats are under pressure to pass a longer-term payment fix during the lame-duck session, in an attempt to block a possible GOP-led effort to repeal key portions of the health reform law to pay for the doc fix in the next congressional session, according to Politico (Politico, 12/6).
GOP Senate aides said that Republicans are considering using money from the reform law's $15 billion public health commitment to fund a long-term doc fix (California Healthline, 12/6).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.