House leaders said they would try to salvage some Medicare-related items they sought that appear likely to be left out of a compromise bill on the State Childrens Health Insurance Program by introducing a separate Medicare-only bill. A vote by the House Democratic Caucus on such a move is expected next week.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that House leaders are considering the option of doing it in two bills as Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline and gridlock on attaching the House provisions to a more straightforward and less costly Senate SCHIP bill.
It is unclear what Medicare provisions would be included in such a bill. The House bill, known as the Childrens Health and Medicare Protection Act, included a measure that replaces a pending 10% physician pay cut in 2008 with two years of 0.5% increases.
Other, more hospital-centric provisions outlined in the bill include a one-year, 0.25% reduction in inflationary updates next year; a rollback and freeze to the inpatient rehabilitation rule at 60%; and a measure that would delay implementation of the new severity-adjusted DRG system. The bill would also extend many retiring rural-health payment provisions, as well.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus declined to comment specifically on the Medicare provisions that would be lost from the House bill, but added that the Medicare physician-fee fix would be part of a separate bill.
One concession the Senate may make for the House is to increase the funding amount in its bill from $35 billion to $37 billion, although its unclear what that extra money would be used for, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) said. -- by Matthew DoBias and Jennifer Lubell
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