Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus Medicare reform bill containing a physician-payment fix through 2009 will be released either late today or early next week, according to a Baucus aide.
Baucus (D-Mont.) told reporters that he planned to seek a 1.1% increase in Medicare physician payments for 18 months, starting on July 1. That increase is higher than what Baucus originally proposed in his draft bill several days ago, and even more generous than what was included in an alternative bill by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) offering a 0.5% pay increase through 2008, and a 1.1% increase in 2009. Its likely that Grassleys bill will be released next 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, said the bill could cost just under $20 billion over five years. Baucus alluded that Medicare Advantage cuts were still the likely source to pay for the bill, although the White House has threatened to veto the bill if it includes such cuts.
Baucus and Grassley may be at odds over certain details, yet their respective draft bills contain similar provisions, such as establishing a rewards/penalties system on e-prescribing use, extending the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative, and requiring HHS to develop a value-based purchasing plan for providers. -- by Jennifer Lubell