Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) released details of his Medicare reform bill that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated as deficit-neutral over five, and even 10, years.
According to the CBO, improving physician payment, efficiency and quality would cost $9.2 billion over five years, the bulk of which would be offset by phasing out indirect medical education payments to Medicare Advantage plans and adjustments to the Medicare Advantage stabilization fund. The dueling bills released by Grassley and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) mirror each other in many ways: Both would halt a 10% cut to physician reimbursement in July and increase payments by 1.1% in 2009, although Grassleys version offers an additional 0.5% boost to physician payments for the remainder of 2008.
Details on Grassleys bill were released several hours after Baucus urged senators to support passage of his own bill, which may be considered on the Senate floor Thursday, provided that he gets 60 votes on a procedural motion that would overturn GOP attempts to block consideration of the bill. This is the right bill for Americas seniors and the healthcare providers who treat them, Baucus said on the Senate floor.
Both lawmakers seem interested in reaching a compromise that could be signed into law, yet Grassley, the finance panel's ranking member, in a statement claims that Baucus bill would be vetoed by President Bush. -- by Jennifer Lubell