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Democrats To Move Forward With Medicare Package

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2008-05-23 14:16

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) onWednesday said he will move forward with a Medicare package developed byDemocrats that likely will be opposed by Republicans and the Bush administration,CQ Today reports. Baucus said he is retreating from crafting abipartisan Medicare package that would delay for 18 months a 10.6% cut tophysician fees (Armstrong [1], CQ Today, 5/21). Although bothparties want to halt the cut, which is scheduled to go into effect on July 1,they have been unable to agree on offsets to pay for the bill, among otherissues (Armstrong [2], CQ Today, 5/21).

Baucus said, "It seems clear to me that we're not going to get anagreement in time to meet the deadlines, so I'm going to move forward with abill that I think has the right policies and priorities for the Medicareprogram." He also said, "Frankly, the White House is a stone wall.And it makes it very difficult for the Republicans to negotiate," adding,"They just don't want any reductions to any of the (Medicare Advantage)plans."

Baucus and fellow Democrats on the committee have proposed cuts to MedicareAdvantage to offset the legislation, including cutting indirect medicaleducation payments to insurers and capping payments to private MA plans. Sen.Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said capping MA plan payments at 130% of traditionalMedicare costs would save $6 billion over five years. Democrats also want toadd some other provisions to the measure, including a small increase in thephysician fee rate, an electronic prescribing initiative and preventive careprograms (Armstrong [1], CQ Today, 5/21). The measure would cost$18.2 billion over five years, according to Conrad.

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