KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hill Committee Leaders Reach Deal On Replacing Medicare Doctor Pay Formula

The agreement would get rid of the troubled system that has often left doctors uncertain about their reimbursements, but the bipartisan leaders have not yet found a way to pay for such a change.

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Lawmakers Reach Accord On Paying Doctors For Medicare
In a rare bipartisan agreement, congressional leaders have settled on a plan to fix Medicare's system for paying physicians, potentially ending years of uncertainty that often held up fees for doctors who care for the nation's senior citizens. The proposed fix still must be paid for, requiring lawmakers to come up with as much as $150 billion in savings from elsewhere in the budget (Levey, 2/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Reach Deal On Doctor Payments
House and Senate lawmakers have agreed on a five-year plan to change how physicians are paid for treating Medicare patients, an issue that has created a recurring scramble in Congress for over a decade. Under the deal announced Thursday, Medicare would increase the amount it pays physicians by 0.5% each year for the next five years. The agreement was the result of talks that included the top members of the Senate Finance, House Energy and Commerce, and House Ways and Means committees (Radnofsky, 2/6).

Kaiser Health News: Hill Plan Would Reward Medicare Doctors For Quality
Now comes the hard part. After negotiating for months over how to overhaul Medicare’s troubled payment system for physicians, the bipartisan leadership of three Senate and House committees has reached a deal on the policy. Their next task could be even harder -- finding a way to finance repeal of the "doc fix," the shorthand for the 1997 formula used to set physician payments, the sustainable growth rate (Carey, 2/7).

The Hill: Finally, A Permanent 'Doc Fix' Bill
Committee leaders in the House and Senate have unveiled bipartisan legislation repealing Medicare's flawed physician payment system and giving doctors in the program a small pay raise. The bill was introduced Thursday after more than a year of negotiations between parties in both chambers. Its central provisions repeal Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula and increase physician reimbursement rates by 0.5 percent annually for 5 years (Viebeck, 2/6).

In other Medicare payment news --

CQ HealthBeat: Insurers Apply Pressure On CMS To Lessen Medicare Advantage Rate Impact
Seniors complain that their out-of-pocket costs are rising because of Medicare Advantage payment cuts. They say that health plans are dropping their doctors. The doctors are fighting back by suing the plans to keep them in the networks. Oh, and an election is coming up. Can action to ease the rising pressure from cuts to Medicare Advantage be long in coming? (Reichard, 2/7).

Politico Pro: Medicare Advantage Could Get Tied To Obamacare Politics
New polling in Virginia suggests that cuts to Medicare Advantage -- which could be proposed by the Obama administration later this month -- may be a political bonus for Republicans' anti-Obamacare messaging this fall. The American Action Network, a conservative leaning advocacy group, will release a poll Friday that finds more than half of likely 2014 voters -- 52 percent -- have an unfavorable opinion of cuts to the private Medicare plans. Just 22 percent favor them. The poll also finds that 52 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare, while 37 percent favor it (Norman, 2/7).


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