KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Lawmakers Could Vote This Week On Three-Year ‘Doc Fix,’ COBRA Subsidy Extension

Before they leave for the Memorial Day recess, lawmakers face legislation which includes a provision on Medicare payments to physicians and an extension of the COBRA subsidy to newly laid-off workers.

The Hill: "The tax extenders bill is back in play and, with it, the Medicare 'doc fix.' This marks lawmakers' last chance to act before the break: If they fail, physicians face a 21.3 percent Medicare pay cut on June 1, right after Congress gets back in session." The legislation which "extends unemployment insurance benefits and reduced COBRA payments to the end of 2010, will come to the House floor for a vote sometime this week." The House Rules Committee will consider the bill Monday with House floor action as early as Tuesday (Goodin and Niedowski, 5/24).

Related KHN story: How The Tax Bill Would Affect Medicare, Medicaid And COBRA Subsidies (Villegas, 5/21)

The Washington Post: Democrats are "facing stiff resistance in both chambers of Congress, not only from Republicans but also within their own ranks. With midterm elections looming and Republicans blaming Democrats for a national debt bloated by the downturn and its aftermath, many lawmakers are unwilling to sign off on more spending. … Still, House leaders view the spending package scheduled to reach the floor Tuesday as must-pass legislation, saying it would shore up support among key constituencies heading into the November elections" (Montgomery and Murray, 5/24).

Roll Call: "The sweeping legislation, which Democrats unveiled late last week - well behind schedule - would also avert a scheduled cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and provide a six-month extension of increased federal matching aid to states for Medicaid. ... Republicans appear, at least at this point, united in opposing the tax extenders package largely because it includes a $150 billion Medicaid payment provision that isn't paid for. Republicans believe 'that it's $150 billion just being added to the debt out of a $200 billion bill, and that is just unacceptable,' Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Thune said Thursday."

"Although Democrats have in the past pushed through a series of one-month extensions while they worked on the larger bill, this time around they are unlikely to do so, aides said" (Hunter and Stanton, 5/24).

CongressDaily: "What appeared to be more than $130 billion" of the bill is not paid for. Democrats are "essentially daring Republicans to filibuster the bill and would use that to hammer the GOP for being insensitive to the poor and to seniors. Republicans argue Democrats ignore deficit concerns at their own peril, although they may struggle to keep a handful of their own in line who have voted with the Democrats on some of the same provisions before. … House Speaker Pelosi said late last week she believes 'we will have the votes' to pass it" (Cohn and Scully, 5/24).

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