Lawmakers Unable To Reach Consensus On Adding Medicare Package

Armen Hareyan's picture

Legislationthat would prevent middle-class U.S.residents from paying the alternative minimum tax heads to the House floor onWednesday, but it does not contain Medicare provisions that would delay ascheduled 10% physician fee cut, CongressDaily reports. TheHouse's decision to move forward with the AMT measure "derails one of thebest vehicles for a Medicare package this year and increases thelikelihood" that the Medicare physician fee cut will take effect Jan. 1,2008, according to CongressDaily (Vaughan/Johnson, CongressDaily,12/12).

Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) onTuesday said that "Medicare probably has to go with AMT" because themeasure is "very bipartisan" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 12/11). However, Baucus and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) wereunable to reach an agreement on a Medicare package during negotiations onTuesday (CongressDaily, 12/12).


According to Baucus, funding the Medicare physician fee fix would be "verydifficult" without cuts to Medicare Advantage plans. However, the Bushadministration has threatened to veto any legislation that reduces payments toMA plans. Baucus said a Medicare package that does not include cuts to MA planswould "put pressure on some other potential provider cuts in order to payfor doctors and also to pay for some other things that a lot of peoplewant" (CQ HealthBeat, 12/11). Baucus is seeking suggestionsfrom White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton on how serious President Bush isabout vetoing a Medicare package that contains MA plan cuts. "The WhiteHouse made it clear, at least they say -- I don't know how accurate this is, Idon't know what the president really thinks ...," Baucus said (CongressDaily,12/11).

According to CQ Today, the Senate still could attach the Medicarepackage to the AMT measure after the House takes action on the legislation(Armstrong, CQ Today, 12/11). Lawmakers and aides said that theMedicare package still could move this year as part of an omnibus spending billor as stand-alone legislation (CongressDaily, 12/12). Meanwhile,Baucus said a Medicare package might be "pushed off until next year,frankly." If that were to happen, Congress could approve legislation thatwould stop the fee cut retroactively (CQ Today, 12/11).

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