Lawmakers To Approve Medicare Doctor Payment Fix

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Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) onTuesday said that legislation that would prevent a 10.6% reduction to Medicarephysician fees will be ready by the Fourth of July recess, CQ HealthBeat reports. Baucus introduced in earlyJune a bill (S 3101) that would block the fee reduction, which is scheduled togo into effect on July 1, but the measure on Thursday failed to receive enoughvotes for debate (Armstrong/Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 6/17). Baucusdid not reveal what his plans were but said that there were several options.Lobbyists said that Baucus might attempt another cloture vote on his bill,which failed 54-39. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) votedagainst cloture to retain the ability to bring the legislation up again,according to CongressDaily.

CongressDaily reports that Democrats likely would have the 60votes required to end debate if they added the five Democrats who missed thevote because they were campaigning or sick (Edney, CongressDaily,6/18). CQ HealthBeat reports that Baucus is "eventuallyexpected to reach a compromise" with Finance Committee ranking memberChuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley introduced a competing bill (S 3118) thatwould make fewer cuts to Medicare Advantage, among other differences (CQHealthBeat, 6/17). Before the cloture vote, Reid denied a request byRepublicans for a similar vote on Grassley's measure (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 6/13).

Baucus is scheduled to meet with House leadership on Wednesday to discuss thelegislation. He said that a bill could be on the floor this week, although itis "somewhat doubtful."

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Baucus, GrassleyIntroduce Competitive Bidding Program Delay Bill

In related news, Baucus andGrassley on Tuesday introduced a measure that would delay the first two roundsof a Medicare competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment, CQHealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 6/17). Under thecompetitive bidding program, which is scheduled to begin July 1, CMS willselect DME suppliers to participate in Medicare based on bids they submit. The2003 Medicare law mandated the program as part of a larger effort to implementcompetitive bidding.

In 2008, the program will operate in 10 of the largest Metropolitan StatisticalAreas and will apply to 10 of the top DME, prosthetics, orthotics and suppliesproduct categories. In 2009, the program will expand to an additional 70 MSAsand will continue to expand in future years. The program also will apply toadditional product categories in future years. The program likely will resultin an average 26% decrease in the prices of medical equipment in the 10 MSAs,according to CMS (Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport, 6/12).

Both Baucus and Grassley had added language to delay the DME program in theirMedicare bills. The measure would terminate contracts that were already awardedfor the first round of the program and restart the bidding process for thoseareas. The measure's cost would be offset by cutting the annual inflationaryadjustment for 2009 on DME covered under the first round of the competitivebidding program and reducing payments for those products by 9.5% nationwide.The DME suppliers subject to the cut would receive a 2% increase in 2014,except in areas where the bidding program is in effect or where CMS hasadjusted rates (CQ HealthBeat, 6/17).

House Waysand Means Health Subcommittee leaders last week proposed anidentical measure, according to CongressDaily. On Monday,bipartisan support for the legislation "eroded a bit" after the Republican Study Committee said in a policy statement it does not want Congress legislating"the minutia of fee schedules," according to CongressDaily(CongressDaily, 6/18).

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.

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