Cutting MA Plan Payments To Prevent Physician Payment Cut

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Physician Payment Cut

Senate Finance CommitteeChair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) at a committee meeting on Wednesday outlineda $30 billion Medicare package that could prevent a scheduled 10%Medicare physician reimbursement rate cut and provide subsidies forrural and low-income seniors, CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily,10/18). Committee members discussed cuts to Medicare Advantage planpayments as a way of funding the physician payment fix, but "thereappears to be considerable resistance on the committee to cuttingdeeply," CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 10/17).

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MAplans on average are paid 12% more than traditional Medicare, and someprivate fee-for-service plans are paid at twice the rate as traditionalMedicare, according to CongressDaily. Baucus said there isgoing to be "some strong examination" of MA plans. Sen. Maria Cantwell(D-Wash.) said, "I think the fee-for-service area is a good area tolook at" (CongressDaily, 10/18). However, Sen. GordonSmith (R-Ore.) said, "There may be some trimming, but the generalproposition is Medicare Advantage has taken hold, and it is the basisby which rural people get Medicare."

The committee was unsurewhether the payment cut reversal would cover one year or two years, dueto funding uncertainties, according to CQ HealthBeat. Lobbyists estimate it will cost about $20 billion to block the payment cuts for two years (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat,10/17). The committee also is discussing possible cuts to specialtyhospitals, oxygen and wheelchairs, according to lobbying andcongressional sources.

Baucus would like to mark up Medicareprovisions this month, but Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said that would beunlikely, adding that the committee is "just exchanging ideas at thispoint" (CongressDaily, 10/18).
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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Health Policy Report, search the archives, andsign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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