Questions Emerge About Whether War Savings Can Pay For ‘Doc Fix’
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp said that using war savings to pay for an overhaul of the Medicare physician payment formula is likely out of the scope of the conference committee's deliberations. In addition, the proposal faces political obstacles.
CQ HealthBeat: Camp Says War Savings Might Be Outside Scope Of Conference Committee
The chairman of the conference committee that's working to avert a looming cut in Medicare physician payment rates said Thursday that suggestions about using war savings to pay for a long-term "doc fix" likely are outside the scope of the panel's deliberations. But Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, also said that he doesn't yet want to discuss any ways of paying for policy debated by the panel, which is also considering extensions of unemployment insurance and a Social Security payroll tax cut that were included in a House-passed bill (Norman, 2/2).
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Using War Savings For 'Doc Fix' Complicated By Congressionial Rules
While hospitals, physicians and some members of Congress want to use war savings as a way to get rid of Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula, congressional rules could complicate things. Even if there's enough support for the idea among Republicans — and it's unclear there is, especially in the House – there's the issue of 'scope,' or what's currently included in the House and Senate bills (Carey, 2/3).
Politico Pro: War Fund Fix Gains Steam, Faces Obstacles
Injecting the war savings into the SGR mix gave new life to an idea left for dead in December — permanently doing away with the dysfunctional Medicare physician pay formula once and for all. But the idea still faces obstacles — political and procedural. Which can turn out to be the same thing. Members of the payroll/SGR conference committee are definitely considering ways of tapping into the Overseas Contingency Operations funds. And physician and hospital groups are behind the idea, which would be less painful for them than the options that have been on the table. But not everyone — including some top Republicans and conference committee Chairman Dave Camp — is sold. And budget rules also make it anything but a slam-dunk. CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf this week said that war savings would not count as an offset for SGR repeal under pay-go rules (Feder and DoBias, 2/2).
Modern Healthcare: Shall They Beat Their Swords Into Medicare Doctor Pay?
A House GOP lawmaker on Wednesday sounded open to the idea of using unspent war funds as a way to pay for a long-term fix to Medicare's contentious sustainable growth rate formula. Earlier Wednesday, the House-Senate negotiating committee responsible for devising long-term solutions to a middle-class payroll tax holiday, unemployment insurance, the SGR, and extensions for certain Medicare programs met for the second time. Some committee members during and after the meeting highlighted an earlier-proposed idea of using potential spending reductions from Overseas Contingency Operations funds to pay for a long-term SGR fix (Zigmond, 2/2).
Politico Pro: Lieberman, Coburn Fight War Savings For SGR
Sens. Joe Lieberman and Tom Coburn released a letter Thursday afternoon in which they blast the idea of using war savings as an offset for repealing Medicare's physician payment formula. The letter from Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Coburn (R-Okla.) says in part, "The funds allocated for OCO or 'war savings' are not real, and every member of Congress knows this. "While our colleagues may be well-intentioned, we believe this approach is financially misguided and will undoubtedly increase our nation's debt and deficit in real terms," the letter states (Feder, 2/2).
In other Capitol Hill action -
The New York Times: To Fix Image, Republicans In House Think Small
Unpopular and divided, the once mighty House Republicans are laboring to repair their image and frame a new agenda. Members are still struggling to sing from the same legislative hymnal. Many want to do bigger things, like a tax code overhaul and changes to the Medicare program. Others, including Mr. Cantor, knowing they will get no help from Senate Democrats, seem to favor more incremental steps (Steinhauer and Weisman, 2/2).
CQ HealthBeat: GOP Lawmakers Ask AARP To Recommend Medicare Changes
GOP members of the House and Senate challenged AARP on Thursday to join their efforts to overhaul Medicare, as House Republicans investigate the powerful advocacy group for possible financial conflicts of interest. The 18 lawmakers — all medical providers — wrote to AARP chief executive A. Barry Rand that politics must be put aside in order to find ways to financially bolster Medicare, and they asked the group to identify detailed policy proposals that it would support (Ethridge, 2/2).