KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hospitals, Labs Lose In Medicare SGR Agreement

News outlets report that the legislation would include delaying the cut in Medicare payments to physicians.

CNN: Congress Reaches Final Payroll Tax Cut Deal
Congressional negotiators have resolved all differences on a deal to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits while avoiding a fee cut for Medicare doctors for the rest of the year (Barret, Cohen and Silverleib, 2/16).

Bloomberg: Payroll Tax Cut Agreement Includes Unemployment, Health Changes 
Hospitals will bear much of the cost of the bill. They will lose about $11 billion in government payments for bad debt, incurred when Medicare patients don’t make co-payments and pay deductibles, and for charity care. Clinical laboratories ... will take a 2 percent Medicare payment cut in 2013, according to the congressional documents (Rubin, 2/16).

The Associated Press: Top Bargainers Announce Payroll Tax Cut Deal
The $20 billion price tag for preventing the cut in doctors' Medicare reimbursements would be covered partly by trimming a fund Obama's health care overhaul created to help prevent obesity and smoking. There would also be reductions in Medicaid payments to hospitals that treat high numbers of uninsured patients (Fram, 2/16).

The Washington Post: Congressional Leaders Back Deal On $150B Economic Package
In addition to the pension issue, [Sen. Max] Baucus and [Rep. Dave] Camp agreed to cut $5 billion from a fund created under the health-care law to help primary-care physicians prevent illness — a fund that the president singled out for a similar cut in the budget for fiscal 2013 that he announced Monday (Kane and Pershing, 2/16).

Politico Pro: Health Cuts Survive In Final SGR/Payroll Deal
$6.9 billion will come from federal “bad debt” payments to hospitals and nursing homes. ... The agreement ends a higher level of reimbursement Medicare makes to some rural hospitals to adjust for high labor costs, cutting off those payments on March 31. But it extends a hospital “hold harmless” provision until the end of the year (Dobias and Haberkorn, 2/16).

Politico Pro: Clinical Labs Stunned By Cuts In SGR Deal
The 2 percent cut to the lab fee schedule in 2013 would pile on top of already deep cuts delivered by health reform — totaling about 19 percent over 10 years. ... While robust profits at some of the largest publicly traded companies, such as Quest and Labcorp, may make it seem like there’s room for trimming payments, the same is not true of the smaller companies that often service smaller or rural market (Norman, 2/16).

National Journal: Congressional Negotiators Reach Payroll Deal 
The deal, such as it is, seems like less of a triumph for Congress than the mere prevention of disaster. ... it's worth remembering that this patch comes after the previous two-month patch--which came about after another standoff. A lasting accord this is not (Snell and Cooper, 2/16).

KHN summarized news coverage earlier today: Congressional Negotiators Announce 'Doc Fix,' Payroll Tax Cut Deal

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