KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Congressional Accord Preserves Medicare Doctor Pay

The deal averts for one year a 26.5 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. It also repeals the long-term care provision of the 2010 health overhaul.

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Cliff Bill Would Avert Cuts For Doctors
The Senate’s fiscal cliff package would avert a steep cut in payments to doctors and officially wipe out a contentious piece of the health overhaul law. The bill would delay for one year a cut in reimbursements to physicians who treat patients on Medicare, the federal insurance program for the elderly and disabled. The cost: $25.2 billion (Adamy, 1/1).

The New York Times: Insurance Program Is Cut To Help Reach An Accord
The bill, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, also freezes Medicare payments to doctors, which otherwise would have been cut by at least 26.5 percent in 2013. The Congressional Budget Office said the freeze would cost $25 billion over 10 years, with most of that coming in 2013-14. Congress offset the cost with changes in Medicare and other federal health programs. For example, it reduced Medicare payments to hospitals by $10.5 billion over 10 years after finding that many hospitals had increased their Medicare revenue by describing the severity of patients' illnesses in more detail (Pear, 1/1).

Kaiser Health News: 'Doc Fix' In 'Fiscal Cliff' Plan Cuts Medicare Hospital Payments
The bill would require that, over the next decade, hospitals pick up nearly half of the approximately $30 billion cost of stopping a 26.5 percent payment cut for Medicare physicians, scheduled to begin today (Carey, 1/1).

Roll Call: Cuts To Some Medicare Payments Provide Offsets For 'Doc Fix'
The Senate-passed fiscal cliff bill would block for one year a scheduled 27 percent cut in reimbursements for Medicare physicians, paid for by familiar cuts and adjustments to other provider payments. The bill (HR 8) would keep reimbursement rates steady through Dec. 31, 2013 — providing one more in a series of short-term patches for the Medicare physician payments (Ethridge, 1/1).

Modern Healthcare: House OKs Bill To Avert Fiscal Cliff, Doc Pay Cut
The House of Representatives late Tuesday approved the Senate's last-minute fiscal cliff package (PDF) that staves off a sharp Medicare physician pay cut by cutting billions from other Medicare providers, including hospitals, pharmacies and dialysis clinics (Zigmond, 1/1).

Politico Pro: Health Care Cuts Send Ripple Through The Industry
The potential fiscal cliff deal … squeezes health savings from a variety of places. But spreading the pain around didn’t prevent complaints from rippling through the industry and Congress. Hospitals are protesting the loudest, since about half of the agreement’s $30 billion in health care cuts would fall on their backs — and most of that $30 billion would go to preventing doctor Medicare pay cuts from kicking in under SGR this month. But insurers and pharmacies are irked as well, since some of the savings would come from trimming payments to Medicare Advantage plans and reimbursements for diabetes tests (Cunningham, 1/1).

Medpage Today: 'Fiscal Cliff' Bill Passes, Medicare Cuts Averted
The 26.5 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement mandated by the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula was averted in a literal 11th hour vote Tuesday in the House of Representatives. The House vote to pass the "fiscal cliff" bill ok'd earlier by the Senate delays the SGR cuts for a year and pushes back another 2 percent cut for two months. The bill cleared the House by a vote of 257-167; senators had passed the same bill in an 89-8 vote just after 2:00 a.m. vote. Between the SGR and sequestor, doctors were facing a 28.5 percent in Medicare payments scheduled to take effect Tuesday (Pittman, 1/1).

Roll Call: Long-Term Care Provisions Would Be Repealed In Fiscal Cliff Bill
The bill to avert the fiscal cliff would repeal a suspended program in the 2010 health care law that has long been targeted by Republicans. ... Most Democrats resisted, saying the program needed to remain on the books so it could be improved and replaced. But the fiscal cliff bill (HR 8) would fully repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act and put a commission on long-term care in its place. Including the provision is a victory for Republicans, who have been concerned that the administration could bring the program back in a form they would oppose (Ethridge, 1/1).

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