Senate GOP To Offer Medicare Physician Pay Patch Bill

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Senate Finance Committee Republicans on Wednesday announcedthey would offer a pared-down bill that would eliminate a 10.6% reduction toMedicare physician fees, CQ Today reports. According to CQToday, Senate Republicans are "apparently losing faith in Democratsto produce a Medicare bill by the end of the month." The fee cut isscheduled to go into effect on July 1. The draft measure, which will beintroduced by Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), wouldextend some Medicare programs for 18 months and replace the fee reduction witha 0.5% increase in 2008 and a 1.1% increase in 2009. The cost of the bill wouldbe offset by cutting indirect medical education payments under MedicareAdvantage and "moving around funds" in an account for Medicarephysician payments, CQ Today reports. According to CQ Today,the fee increases and the offsets are similar to another measure (S 3118) byGrassley. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "With thedeadline for action approaching at the end of next week, we should pass abill."

Democrats ConsideringOptions

Meanwhile, FinanceCommittee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Wednesday met with House Democraticleadership to discuss options for a Medicare package after his measure (S 3101)failed to receive enough votes for cloture last week (Armstrong, CQ Today,6/18). According to CongressDaily, Democrats Baucus, Finance Health Subcommittee Chair Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (N.Y.), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (Mich.) andEnergy and Commerce HealthSubcommittee ChairFrank Pallone (N.J.) attended the meeting. The lawmakers would not disclosetheir plans as they left the meeting, CongressDaily reports.Baucus said he doubted a bill would reach the floor this week (Edney, CongressDaily,6/19). However, he said, "We're going to get this done by June 30" (CQToday, 6/18).

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GOP Pushes Grassley ToInclude Pharmacy Provisions

On Tuesday, 18 SenateRepublicans sent Grassley a letter asking him to include two pharmacyprovisions in Medicare legislation that were not included in his previouslyintroduced bill. One would ensure that pharmacies are paid promptly for drugsdispensed to Medicare beneficiaries. The other would delay a Medicaidregulation that would reduce reimbursements for generic drugs. The provisionswere included in Baucus' measure. If Grassley were to include them in hislegislation, he would have to find additional offsets, according to CongressDaily.

House DemocratsScrutinize Private Fee-for-Service Plans in MA

Meanwhile, Ways and MeansCommittee Democrats on Wednesday released documents criticizing so-calledprivate fee-for-service plans under MA and minimizing the significance of theirnecessity, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily,6/19). MA plans, on average, are paid 117% of what traditional Medicare pays (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 6/6).They said that lawmakers could eliminate the plans under MA and 99% ofbeneficiaries still would have coverage options under the program. A Republicanaide countered that the plans are the fastest growing under the program, with400,000 new enrollees between January and April (CongressDaily,6/19).

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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