House Vote Scheduled On Payroll Tax Reduction Package
The bill, which also would extend a number of other expiring measures and includes "must-pass" provisions such as the Medicare "doc fix," has drawn opposition. Hospitals groups have blasted it because it includes billions of dollars in cuts to hospital payments. In addition, some opposition is emerging because the bill would raise revenue by charging wealthy seniors more for Medicare. Also, it is unclear how this legislation will be received in the Senate.
The Washington Post: House To Vote On Extension Of Payroll-Tax Reduction
A Republican aide said conservative lawmakers have been persuaded to support the bill because of how its costs would be covered. The bill, which would also extend unemployment benefits and avert deep scheduled cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors for two years, would be paid for through spending cuts (Helderman and Sonmez, 12/12).
The Associated Press: Republicans Plan House OK Of Payroll Tax Cut Bill
Republicans are girding to push a bill through the House that would continue a payroll tax cut for 160 million workers, but has drawn White House and Democratic objections because it would also force work on a controversial oil pipeline. ... The legislation would also prevent an automatic 27 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements for doctors in January, a reduction that could force some to stop treating Medicare patients. Instead, their reimbursements would rise by 1 percent each of the next two years (Fram, 12/13).
Politico: Payroll Tax Faces A Bumpy Finish
The payroll tax cut is becoming increasingly treacherous for both parties, as House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are stuck in an impasse before Congress tries to adjourn for the year Friday (Raju and Sherman, 12/12).
The Hill: Hospitals Blast Medicare Cuts In GOP Payroll Tax Bill
An array of hospital groups are pushing back against billions of dollars in cuts in House Republicans' payroll tax package. Senate Democrats oppose paying for the package by charging wealthy seniors more for Medicare, while House Republicans say savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are fictitious. That leaves billions in cuts to Medicare provider payments on the table as lawmakers struggle to preserve payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits and physician Medicare payments before year's end (Pecquet, 12/12).
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Hospitals Clash With House Republicans On Medicare Cuts
Hospitals have come out swinging against payment cuts to their industry included in the House Republican plan to stop a scheduled Medicare physician payment cut next January. And the House GOP is swinging right back (Carey, 12/13).
NPR: Congress At Impasse Over Must-Pass Measures
On the line are extended unemployment benefits for millions who have been out of work more than six months, and a payroll tax holiday that if it isn't extended would mean $1,000 less in take-home pay next year for the average family. Before the end of the year, Congress also has to act on the so-called doc fix, otherwise Medicare reimbursements for doctors would drop drastically. And there are numerous tax fixes that add up to billions of dollars (Keith, 12/13).
The Associated Press: Can't Raise Taxes? Hike Medicare Premiums Instead
Raising taxes on millionaires may be a non-starter for Republicans, but they seem to have no problem hiking Medicare premiums for retirees making a lot less. The House is expected to vote Tuesday on a year-end economic package that includes increasing premiums for "high-income" Medicare beneficiaries, currently those making $85,000 and above for individuals, or $170,000 for families (12/13).
News outlets report on how the costs of the Medicare physician payment fix may be problematic in the Senate —
CQ HealthBeat: Medicare Premium Hike A Heavy Lift In The Senate
Medicare premium hikes included in a new House Republican bill would go a long way toward funding the $39 billion cost of blocking Medicare physician payment cuts for two years. But the increases will be hard to get through the Senate. And that calls into question how easy it will be for Congress to pass a payment patch for that long. ... The provision would require more affluent seniors — eventually, 25 percent of the Medicare population — to pay sharply higher premiums (Reichard, 12/12).
Politico Pro: Senate Eyes Next Steps After House SGR Vote
Senate Democrats are ready to reject a series of health care reform and hospital payment cuts used by House Republicans to pay for a temporary fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate, but they're not getting any closer to finding an alternative set of savings that could win Republican support. Democratic aides are cycling through a number of offsets for a bill that extends the payroll tax break and unemployment benefits, but could also stop a 27 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement from hitting physicians (DoBias, 12/13).
The measure also includes a provision about physician-owned hospitals —
Politico Pro: GOP Bill Would Allow Doc-Owned Hospitals
About 36 physician-owned hospitals, including a number in Texas, Tennessee and Arizona, would be allowed to open and operate under a provision in the House Republicans' bill that extends the payroll tax break, unemployment benefits and puts a two-year patch on the Sustainable Growth Rate. The GOP-written bill overrides an Affordable Care Act measure substantially limiting the number of these physician-owned hospitals nationwide. As written, the House bill would allow hospitals under construction but not recognized by Medicare as of Dec. 31, 2010, to operate under the "whole hospital" antitrust exception (DoBias, 12/12).
The New York Times: GOP Bill Would Benefit Doctor-Owned Hospitals
The House Republican bill to hold down payroll taxes and extend unemployment benefits, coming up for a vote on Tuesday, offers a special dispensation to doctors who invest in hospitals (Pear, 12/12).
Meanwhile, public health groups criticize efforts to cut the health law's public health prevention fund as a means to pay for the payroll tax relief —
Politico: GOP Eyes Health Funds For Tax Cut
House Republicans hope to dip into a big but complicated pot of money in the health reform law to pay for payroll tax relief and Medicare payments to physicians. Less than two years after the health law passed, it's the third time Congress has considered tapping into this portion of the health law funds — the subsidies that will help low and some middle-class families buy health insurance in the new state exchanges starting in 2014 (Haberkorn, 12/12).
CQ HealthBeat: Prevention Fund Cut Proposal Criticized By Public Health Groups
The House Republican proposal to cut $8 billion over a decade from the health law's Prevention and Public Health Fund is shortsighted and ultimately would cost the country more in future health care dollars, public health and prevention experts said Monday. Under a measure introduced by House Republicans Dec. 9, the prevention fund would be capped at $640 million per year beginning in fiscal 2013. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the cut would save $8 billion over 10 years. Mandatory funding allotted to the program by the health overhaul authorized $15 billion for the first 10 years, starting with $500 million and building up to $2 billion per year as of fiscal 2015 (Bristol, 12/12).