White House officials said that President Bush would likely veto a Medicare bill if it cuts payments to Medicare Advantage plans, raises taxes or otherwise overturns White House-favored health policies in order to avert a scheduled 10% reduction in physician reimbursement.
In a letter sent to Senate leaders, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said the administration wants to see a legislative package that includes payment incentives to physicians who adopt health information technology and who practice the highest quality of care.
I write to reiterate the administrations commitment to strengthen and improve Medicare, and to ensure our nations seniors continue to have access toand choices amonghigh-quality benefits, Leavitt stated.
The letter also highlights presidential deal-breakers sure to spark yet another showdown between Congress and a White House that has become increasingly active in preserving its healthcare legacy.
Though a bill hasnt been finalized, sources familiar with a preliminary package said the finance committee was considering up to about $14 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts and paring down payments to the private plans that participate in the program. On average, those plans are paid about 12% more than traditional fee-for-service options.
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, sharply rebuked the administration, calling Bush a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. -- by Matthew DoBias
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