Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ On The Congressional To-Do List
News outlets report on Congress' pivotal week ahead, which could include an extension of the payroll tax break and a patch to prevent a scheduled cut in Medicare physician payments.
The Associated Press: Cutting Deficits Harder Than Just Talking About It
The coming year-end spending spree after so much debate over budget deficits shows just how hard it is to stem the government's flow of red ink. Lawmakers are poised to spend $120 billion or so to renew a Social Security tax cut that averaged just under $1,000 per household this year. ... And doctors have no reason to doubt they won't be rescued, again, from steep cuts in their Medicare payments. Combine that with the tax cuts and jobless benefits, and Congress could add almost $200 billion to the federal ledger this month (Taylor, 12/4).
The Washington Post: Congress Faces Pivotal Week On Stimulus, Spending Measures
Monday begins a pivotal week in Congress, the last opportunity this year to pass some kind of economic stimulus package to boost the ailing economy. This will also be a decisive moment for legislation to keep the federal government running on a leaner budget for the rest of the fiscal year. … [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid and [House Speaker John] Boehner are probably headed for a final negotiation on the payroll tax that will initiate a two-track process for the legislation, which the leaders say must pass before Christmas. Along with the tax holiday, leaders are considering attaching an extension of unemployment insurance benefits and a measure to adjust Medicare payments to doctors — all of which, according to Boehner, will need accompanying spending cuts to make the package deficit-neutral (Kane, 12/4).
Politico Pro: SGR Challenge: Paying For The Next Patch
The House and Senate are already heading in different directions as they work towards a catchall, end-of-the-year bill that, in part, holds off a 27 percent Medicare physician pay cut. That's largely because they're looking at completely different ways to pay for it — leading to a potential year-end clash over the $22 billion price tag for a one-year patch, or the $38 billion for a two-year fix. On Friday, House Republicans were preparing their template: A package that includes a two-year "doc fix," an extension to the payroll tax holiday and an extension for jobless benefits. The Senate's final version is yet to come, but it will likely take a divergent path from the House package. As of Friday, key Senate committees had yet to coalesce around a temporary stay for Medicare physicians, but few believe it would go much longer than 18 months (DoBias, 12/2).