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Healthcare provisions stripped from jobs bill


By Matthew DoBias
Posted: February 11, 2010 - 6:00 pm ET
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A provision that would have frozen current Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians until Oct. 1 and several other smaller, healthcare-related measures have been stripped from a much larger bill aimed at boosting employment across the country.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that Democrats would instead go ahead with a stripped-down jobs bill rather than a broader one that would have carried with it a temporary “doc fix” as well as an extension to COBRA premium assistance.

“We're going to move this afternoon to a smaller package than I talked about in the press,” Reid said. The bill now is expected to include a payroll tax exemption and a raft of other provisions meant to create new jobs. “And then when we finished that, we'll move on to the tax extenders and all the other stuff,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and his Republican counterpart, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, released a draft of the bill that included the physician pay measure and a number of other provisions, one of which would have extended COBRA benefits until later this year.

The bill would have also extended the exceptions process for Medicare therapy caps and continued payments for doctors in areas where the work geographic practice cost index is below 1.0.

But by midday, Reid said he had decided to go instead with a pared-down bill.

Those provisions, which would total about $13 billion over a 10-year budget window, will instead go into a separate “extenders” bill that the Senate could take up the week of Feb. 21.

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