CQ Discusses Medicare Legislation, Medicaid Regulations

Armen Hareyan's picture

Mary AgnesCarey, associate editor of CQ HealthBeat, discusses Senate Democrats' plansto craft legislation that would stop a scheduled reduction in Medicarephysician payments; a provision in a supplemental war spending bill that wouldblock for one year new Medicaid regulations; and a bicameral, bipartisan healthpolicy summit set for June in this week's "Health on the Hill fromkaisernetwork.org and CQ."

According to Carey, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) hasdecided not to work with panel ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) incrafting Medicare legislation because the committee's Republican members areunlikely to support it. Carey says Democrats feel strongly about using cuts inpayments to Medicare Advantage plans as a way to fund legislation that willstop a scheduled 10.6% cut in Medicare physician payment rates. However, mostRepublicans and the White House oppose any major cuts to MA plans, so theDemocrats' bill likely will be blocked. Carey adds that Baucus plans to draftthe bill over the Memorial Day recess and move it directly to the Senate floorin early June. The measure also may include incentives to encourage electronicprescribing in Medicare, improve preventive care and provide higher paymentsfor rural health care providers.


Before adjourning for the Memorial Day recess, the Senate passed a supplementalwar spending bill that would place a one-year moratorium on seven Medicaidregulations issued by HHS. The regulations would reduce federal spendingon the program by about $20 billion, Carey says. The Senate also has passedstand-alone legislation that would block the regulations. In addition, afederal judge has blocked a regulation that would reduce Medicaid payments tosafety net hospitals, saying that the Bush administration tried to circumventCongress' intent. CMS said it is confident that the rule will beupheld.

Lastly, Carey discusses Senate Finance Committee plans for a bicameral,bipartisan health policy summit to take place June 16 as part of thecommittee's yearlong series of hearings, forums and other events to prepare forwhat many hope will be congressional action next year on health care reform.The forums will examine rising health care costs, state-based reform effortsand trends in employer-sponsored health coverage, demographics, public programsand delivery-of-care issues.

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.