House leaders are eyeing a legislative package that would increase physician Medicare payments over the next 19-months—until the end of 2011—but trim back some benefits for safety net health programs.
Doc fix trimmed back; House eyes Thursday vote
Under the measure, physicians would not see a 21% pay cut that’s scheduled to go into effect June 1, according to two sources with knowledge of the ongoing negotiations between House and Senate leaders.
If approved, it would be the third attempt to rework the troublesome sustainable growth-rate formula used to determine physician reimbursement. Previous attempts have proven too costly for some debt-wary lawmakers.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), chair of the House Rules Committee, said the package is expected to be approved by her committee tonight, clearing the way for final passage early Thursday.
House leaders huddled behind closed doors to help shape the bill's framework, which attempts to patch the SGR while also extending unemployment insurance benefits as well as the timeline for a higher level of aid for COBRA premiums.
But those last two measures could be scaled back, ending in November rather than December—a move that would keep the unpaid provisions in the bill under $100 billion. Sources stressed that negotiations were fluid.
“We’re working on it,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said after he emerged from the meeting.
“We’re looking at the options,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the House leadership team, echoed. Van Hollen said he expects the House to pass the bill before Memorial Day, though it remains unclear whether or not the Senate will support the package.
Both Hoyer and Van Hollen declined to go into specifics.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.