KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sen. Reid’s Plan To Cut Payments To Medicare Providers Sets Up Showdown On Jobless Aid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's proposal to pay for reinstating jobless benefits by extending $17 billion in so-called sequestration cuts has set up a fight with Republicans. The Reid plan would cut Medicare provider pay -- but not until 2024.

The Washington Post: Showdown Vote Ahead On Senate Democrats' Bill To Extend Jobless Benefits
Regardless of the outcome Monday, House Republicans signaled skepticism because most of the budget savings come from what they consider a gimmick. Reid’s plan would draw $17 billion in savings by extending for one additional year portions of the mandatory spending cuts, known as sequestration. That would represent a cut to funds for Medicare providers, but it would not be implemented until 2024 -- a frequent complaint from House conservatives, who dislike it when spending in the near term is offset by cuts that will happen years from now (Kane, 1/9).

The New York Times: Reid's Uncompromising Power Play In Senate Rankles Republicans
Senate legislation has increasingly turned into a battle over amendments and [Majority Leader Harry] Reid's uncompromising control over the process. The six Republicans who voted to take up the unemployment bill on Tuesday expected at least to be allowed votes on their amendments to shape the legislation. Instead, Mr. Reid dismissed all Republican proposals as unacceptable and then proposed his own new unemployment deal. Under it, benefits would be extended until mid-November of this year, and paid for largely by extending a 2 percent cut to Medicare health providers in 2024. Republicans were outraged, and an obscure procedural fight is likely to leave up to three million out-of-work Americans without benefits (Weisman, 1/9).

In the meantime, doctors worry over food stamp cuts and some Democrats seek to extend the health law's higher pay for Medicare and Medicaid doctors --

The Associated Press: Doctors Say Cutting Food Stamps Would Increase Health Care Costs
Doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills. Maybe not immediately, they say, but over time if the poor wind up in doctors' offices or hospitals as a result. Among the health risks of hunger are spiked rates of diabetes and developmental problems for young children down the road (Neergaard and Jalonick, 1/10).

MedPage Today: Congress Grapples With Primary Care Pay
Some Democratic lawmakers have expressed interest in extending the pay increases for primary care physicians in Medicare and Medicaid that are temporarily in effect under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The measure to continue the pay increases -- which could come in legislation that repeals Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment formula -- faces a tough battle as a budget-conscious Congress works to keep an SGR repeal price tag low (Pittman, 1/9).

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