KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Negotiators Eye Short-Term and Long-Term ‘Doc Fix’ Options

Single-year and two-year fixes to the "sustainable growth rate" formula -- or even a permanent fix -- are floated as the White House and congressional Republicans continue negotiations over taxes and spending.

Politico Pro: House GOP Looking At Two-Year 'Doc Fix'
House Republicans are looking at a two-year reprieve from the Medicare physician payment cuts as House Speaker John Boehner puts together a plan B in the fiscal cliff negotiations, according to sources familiar with the leadership efforts. The “doc fix” would be paid for by recapturing more tax subsidies from the health law’s insurance exchanges, according to a GOP aide familiar with the discussions. Boehner told Republicans on Tuesday that he plans to move a bill that would hike tax rates on incomes of more than $1 million. It would keep the Bush-era tax rates for people making less than $1 million. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already said the plan won’t pass the Senate (Haberkorn, 12/18).

Modern Healthcare: White House Calls For Healthcare Cuts, Permanent SGR Fix
The White House has called for a permanent—not temporary—fix to Medicare's sustainable growth-rate formula and about $400 billion in healthcare cuts, according to a source familiar with the fiscal-cliff negotiations. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), however, was generally dismissive of the president's new proposal, signaling that a permanent fix to the physician payment system is still not within reach. During a news conference in the Capitol, Boehner said the GOP leadership plans to introduce a bill this week that would extend current tax rates for Americans who make $1 million or less, but Boehner stopped short of saying whether that legislation would include a temporary fix to Medicare's physician payment formula (Zigmond, 12/18).

CQ HealthBeat: Full Repeal Of 'Doc Fix' Formula May Be Part Of Long-Term Plan
President Barack Obama’s latest offer in the fiscal cliff negotiations includes a path to permanently repeal the formula that dictates cuts to Medicare payments to physicians, but that change — as well as others to the federal health care program — probably will wait until next year. Until then, according to a House aide, Obama would provide physicians with a one-year payment patch to stave off the 27 percent cuts that are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. In addition, other major changes to Medicare, including a move to increase the program’s eligibility age, also probably will not be considered until next year, when lawmakers take a broader look at entitlement programs, House Speaker John A. Boehner said Tuesday (Ethridge, 12/18).

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