KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

COBRA Expansion, Medicare Payments To Doctors ‘Fix’ Looming Over Congress

Lawmakers seek ways to expand COBRA and address the Medicare doctor payment "fix."

The Hill: "Democratic leaders said extensions of unemployment insurance and COBRA healthcare benefits should be emergency spending that isn't subject to the pay-as-you-go statute, which requires new non-discretionary spending to be offset with spending cuts or tax increases. With current extensions of unemployment and COBRA benefits set to expire at the end of the month and the jobless rate still near 10 percent, Democratic lawmakers want to pass the extensions quickly, without having to find offsets for the costs."

The unemployment and COBRA language initially included in the jobs bill, which would advance a six-month extension of these benefits, "made up roughly a third of the House Democrats' $154 billion jobs package. ... Republicans voted en masse against the pay-go legislation, criticizing Democrats for including language that would allow exemptions to it. ... For now, centrist Democrats are leaning toward passing unemployment and COBRA benefits as emergency spending" (Alarkon, 2/16).

Meanwhile, CQ HealthBeat reports on the "doc fix": "With the removal of a Medicare provision preventing a 21 percent payment cut to doctors and a provision blocking a payment cap for outpatient rehabilitation services from the Senate jobs bill, it's unclear what legislation if any will get through Congress this month negating the cuts." Currently, the doctor payment cut is expected to go into effect March 1 (2/16).

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