KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Budget Deal, With 3-Month ‘Doc Fix’ Moves To Senate

As the the House approved a budget deal, Republicans included a provision to prevent a scheduled pay cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients. Meanwhile, House and Senate committees approved bills to repeal that Sustainable Growth Rate formula, but prospects for passage are unclear.

The Washington Post: House GOP Conservatives Help Propel Budget Bill
After a sweeping vote by conservative Republicans controlling the House and President Barack Obama’s Democratic allies, a bipartisan budget pact is in the hands of the Senate, where it will encounter stronger but probably futile resistance from Republicans. … It leaves in place the bulk of $1 trillion or so in automatic cuts slamming the Pentagon, domestic agencies and Medicare providers through 2021 but eases an especially harsh set of cuts for 2014 and 2015 (12/12).

Los Angeles Times: Budget Deal Rolls Through House
At the last minute, Republicans tacked on a provision to prevent a scheduled cut in pay for doctors who treat Medicare patients. Many Republicans have decided their efforts should be directed elsewhere — namely, fighting President Obama's healthcare law — rather than revisiting the budget wars that have defined the last several years (Mascaro, 12/12).

The Wall Street Journal: House Passes Budget Agreement In 332-94 Vote
The budget bill also included a three-month extension of current Medicare doctors' payments, which were slated to be cut by more than 20% at year's end. There is no guarantee that the bipartisan deal signals the end of brinkmanship or that this episode of bipartisanship will reach into other areas. The most immediate test will be the next month's work on appropriations legislation, which must be enacted before Jan. 15 (Hook, 12/13). 

The Wall Street Journal: House, Senate Committees Approve 'Doc Fix' Legislation
House and Senate panels approved legislation Thursday to overhaul how Medicare doctors are paid, although action by the full House and Senate on the bill won't happen until next year. The House Ways and Means committee unanimously approved legislation that would end the way doctors are reimbursed by Medicare and replace it with a system that would reward doctors who meet quality standards. The Senate Finance Committee overwhelmingly approved similar legislation (Schatz, 12/12). 

Medpage Today: 3-Month SGR Fix Passes
The Senate is expected to take up the temporary patch next week. Meanwhile, bills to permanently repeal the SGR worked their way through committees in the House and Senate, with further action and possibly votes from the full chambers expected early next year. The bills would repeal the SGR, encourage the use of alternative payment models such as accountable care organizations, combine three quality incentive programs into one, and make numerous other changes to the way Medicare pays for the delivery of health care (Pittman, 12/12).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Congress Moves Closer To Changing How Medicare Pays Doctors
Kaiser Health News’ Mary Agnes Carey and Politico Pro’s Jennifer Haberkorn discuss how House and Senate committees approved legislation Thursday to repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which officials use to pay doctors who treat Medicare patients (12/12). 

CQ HealthBeat: Lawmakers Forge Ahead On Long-Term Medicare ‘Doc-Fix’ But Obstacles Loom
Even as Congress made important progress Thursday in replacing how Medicare pays physicians, many hurdles large and small remain to be negotiated next year. The House on Thursday night passed, 332-94, a bipartisan budget deal that was coupled with a short-term fix to avert a scheduled 24 percent cut in physicians’ reimbursements that would begin Jan. 1 under the current formula (Ethridge, 12/12).


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