Much In Play For Health Interests As Congress Works On Payroll Tax Cut
A two-year fix to the formula that sets Medicare payments for physicians was included in yesterday's House-passed version of this bill. Still, the fix's future is not certain. Meanwhile, other health interests are trying to protect their own funding, which has so far been targeted as a way to pay for the payroll tax holiday extension.
Politico: What's Up, Doc Fix?
Doc fix is Washington shorthand for the Sustainable Growth Formula, a mouthful of a payment plan wrapped into a 1997 budget law. It was supposed to be a so-smart way of linking physicians costs, Medicare enrollment and the GDP. Only it didn't work. And everyone knows it. The irony is that this annual scramble still occurs even though pretty much everyone in Washington — Democrats, Republicans, politicians, policymakers and the medical establishment itself — have concluded that the SGR system is broken beyond repair and should be replaced (Kenen, 12/14).
The Hill: House Approves Two-Year Medicare 'Doc Fix'
The House voted 234-193 Tuesday evening to approve a payroll tax extenders package that includes a two-year "fix" to the formula for Medicare payments to doctors. President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation, which is expected to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate on Wednesday. Without congressional action on the Sustainable Growth Rate, physicians will see a 27.4 percent cut to their Medicare rates starting Jan. 1 (Pecquet, 12/13).
Politico Pro: SGR Steps Uncertain After House Passage
For many health policy analysts, Tuesday's vote marks the true start of negotiations between the House and Senate. Senate Democrats have yet to craft their "doc fix" bill, and aides say they are still unsettled on key details such as its duration, cost and offsets. Two potential ways to pay for it — savings that would result as U.S. troop size decreases overseas and a surtax on millionaires — have proved unpopular among Republicans (DoBias, 12/13).
Medscape: House OKs Medicare 'Doc Fix' That Appears Doomed In Senate
Setting up physicians for another likely disappointment, the House today passed a bill that would avert a 27.4 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement scheduled for January 1. The disappointment will probably come compliments of the Senate, where Democrats have vowed to block the legislation. Their ire is aimed not at the latest "doc fix" to the Medicare reimbursement crisis but, rather, at other provisions regarding a payroll tax cut and the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. Approved in a 234-193 vote, the House bill would extend a temporary cut to the Social Security payroll tax paid by workers for 1 more year, keeping it at 4.2 percent. Without this renewal, the tax will return to its former level of 6.2 percent on January 1 (Lowes, 12/13).
CQ HealthBeat: Hospitals, Cancer Doctors, Advocates Fight Back Against Proposed Cuts
Hospitals deeply displeased with a House GOP bill that would cut their Medicare payments by an estimated $20 billion, launched a national print ad campaign on Tuesday protesting the reductions as "wrong and irresponsible." Meanwhile, oncologists and other providers of care for cancer patients also protested cutbacks in the legislation that they say would severely strain a cancer treatment system already under stress. And advocates for preventive health called cuts to a preventive health fund a "lose-lose solution" (Norman, 12/13).
Modern Healthcare: Hospitals Continue Lobbying Push As Vote On Doc-Pay Fix Nears
The nation's hospitals once again implored Congress not to pay for a fix to the physician payment system by making payment cuts to hospitals, but House Republicans had detailed responses at the ready. ... A group of health care provider organizations — including the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Catholic Health Association of the United States and the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems — sent a letter to federal lawmakers that said the legislation would jeopardize access to care for patients by cutting more than $17 billion in hospital payments (Zigmond, 12/13).
Modern Healthcare: Baucus To Seek Freeze In Medicare Pay Rates
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and tax issues, plans to include a freeze in Medicare payment rates in his draft of a tax cut extension bill that the House of Representatives is voting on, according to a Senate aide. Baucus plans to introduce his measure after the House passes its version. However, he has not yet decided the length of time that the measure will extend current rates or how to pay for those extensions. The aide said reports on such details of the Senate bill are inaccurate because they remain undecided (Daly, 12/13).