Senate Package To Suspend Scheduled Reduction In Medicare Physician Fees

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The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday held a closed meeting to discuss a Medicare package that would reverse a 10.1% reduction in physician fees scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2008, but the details of the proposal remain undetermined, CQ HealthBeat reports. Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has proposed a $30 billion Medicare package that would suspend the scheduled reduction in physician fess for two years and increase payments to providers in rural areas and prevent a reduction in rehabilitation therapy reimbursements.

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However, committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has proposed a one-year suspension of the scheduled reduction in Medicare physician fees, a proposal that would require a smaller decrease in payments to private Medicare Advantage plans and other areas to offset the cost. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said, "I'm very much concerned about offsets that would impact Medicare Advantage, which would impact rural states."

According to individuals familiar with the meeting, the committee focused on a potential reduction in reimbursements to private fee-for-service MA plans to offset the cost of the Medicare package (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 11/7). Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) said that the committee would not follow a House proposal to reduce reimbursements to private MA plans by $50 billion.

The committee also considered reductions in Medicare reimbursements for medical imaging and home oxygen services, Lott said (Johnson, CongressDaily, 11/7). He added that Democrats "had a list of 10 or 12 areas that could be impacted" to offset the cost of their Medicare package. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said that a timetable for a mark up of the Medicare package remains undetermined (CQ HealthBeat, 11/7).

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