Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus released his Medicare reform bill that would halt a 10% cut to physician reimbursement in July and increase payments by 1.1% in 2009.
In other physician provisions, Baucus bill proposes to increase the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative bonus for providers who measure and report on quality of care, and offers incentives to doctors who move to safer, more reliable electronic-prescribing methods, decreasing payments to doctors who fail to do so by 2011.
The bill contains a payment bump for primary-care services in shortage areas and adds new funding and authority for the Medical Home Demonstration Project. Theres also an increase in the geographic adjustment to payments for physician work in rural areas.
Baucus bill also requires private fee-for-service plans in Medicare Advantage to develop networks of providers to ensure care for beneficiaries, and to measure and report on quality of care.
The bill makes smart changes to stop overpayments to private plans that are getting more than their share of taxpayer dollars, Baucus said in a written statement.
He also said he was aiming for bipartisan passage of the bill on the Senate floor this month.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has an alternative proposal that includes a 0.5% pay increase through 2008, and a 1.1% increase in 2009. Its likely that Grassleys bill will be released this week, said an aide to the finance panels ranking member.
The Congressional Budget Office has yet to estimate the cost of Baucus bill, although Baucus, in a meeting with physician representatives last week, said the bill could cost just under $20 billion over five years.