KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Bipartisan Duo Introduces Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ Bill In House

The effort, by Reps. Schwartz and Heck, would change the system known as the sustainable growth rate for Medicare physician payments.

CQ Healthbeat: House Members Hope Time Is Right For Medicare Payment Change
A bipartisan pair of House members hopes that three developments will give momentum to their bill to replace the formula that dictates how Medicare pays physicians. The measure, from Allyson Y. Schwartz, D-Pa., and Joe Heck, R-Nev., would establish new payment systems for Medicare physicians and looks very similar to their stalled bill from last year. But the lawmakers said a significantly lower cost estimate for repealing the formula, along with other members’ increased acceptance of their ideas, could mean passage this year (Ethridge, 2/6).

Politico: Medicare Pay Formula May Finally Get Fixed
Efforts to finally get rid of that dreaded Medicare payment formula could see smoother sailing now that the Congressional Budget Office has sliced the price tag nearly in half. ... Even though that job is now a lot easier, it’s unclear how far this particular piece of legislation will actually get. Other SGR repeal bills are in the mix. Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have been circulating their own memo on SGR repeal, and while it contains many similar ideas, they could choose to act on their own bill instead (Cunningham, 2/7).

The Hill: Bipartisan 'Doc Fix' Bill Introduced
Schwartz said there's no reason for Congress to wait until the end of the year, when the latest temporary patch is set to expire, before tackling the problem permanently. She and Heck also said they'd like to see SGR repeal as one in a series of incremental steps toward Medicare reform, rather than packaging it with a broader — and more controversial — overhaul (Baker, 2/6).

MedPage Today:  House Bill Will Repeal SGR, Raise Doc Pay Yearly
[The bill] would identify new payment and delivery models, including for different specialties, practice types, and geographic regions. It also would stabilize reimbursement for providers who exhibit "quality and efficiency within a fee-for-service model," according to the release. .... John Rother, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care, which represents businesses, medical societies, unions, insurers, healthcare providers, and patients, noted in the press release that "This bipartisan legislation would help deliver the real reform we need, moving us away from today's fee-for-service system to higher-quality, lower-cost care" (Struck, 2/6).

Modern Healthcare: Lawmakers Offer Dueling Approaches On Fixing Doc Pay
[The bill] introduced Wednesday by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and a bill expected from Ways and Means Health subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) would replace the sustainable growth-rate formula with temporary increases while replacement methodologies were devised. But the bills differ on important points, including whether federal officials or physician groups would take the lead in developing new payment systems and the degree to which fee-for-service payments would be eliminated (Daly, 2/6).

The Medicare NewsGroup: How To Pay For Medicare? The Answer Is Unclear, No Matter Who You Ask
Everybody agrees on what a reformed Medicare system should look like, but nobody knows how to get there from here. This was the blunt, discouraging consensus emerging from a discussion of health care experts speculating on what a modernized version of the program should offer its 49 million beneficiaries. Gail Wilensky, an economist and a former director of Medicare, warned that nothing will happen until Congress is forced into choosing between unattractive alternatives: making taxpayers pay more, or making beneficiaries pay more (Rosenblatt, 2/6).

Also on Capitol Hill --

MinnPost: Erik Paulsen Tries Again To Dump Medical Device Tax
Rep. Erik Paulsen's campaign to forestall an Affordable Care Act tax increase on medical device companies came up short last session. ... Paulsen will reintroduce legislation repealing the tax on Wednesday, looking to leverage the tax’s impact on business to try steering the bill through a friendly House, a potentially hostile Senate, and a White House thus far completely opposed to the effort (Henry, 2/6).

The Washington Post: Sen. Menendez Contacted Top Officials In Friend's Medicare Dispute
Sen. Robert Menendez raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor — had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday (Leonnig and Markon, 2/6).

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