Congress will not prevent the looming 29.4% cut in Medicare payments to physicians until it approves a last-minute omnibus funding bill, according to a senior Senate Democrat.
Harkin: Congress likely will tackle 'doc fix' in omnibus bill
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee's Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee, told reporters Tuesday that a measure to prevent the scheduled cut to provider reimbursements from taking effect in January is one of several high-profile provisions he expects Congress to include in a catch-all spending bill it will pass in the final days of the year.
Physician groups have pushed for Congress to pass a "permanent fix" to the current sustainable growth-rate payment formula. Congress has delayed such action because of the estimated $344 billion, 10-year cost of switching to another system for setting payments, according to federal actuaries.
Another measure Harkin expects the omnibus to include is funding for the federal version of state health exchanges. Insurance exchanges in each state were authorized by the 2010 healthcare law to launch in 2014, with the federal government establishing exchanges in states that opted not to establish an exchange. However, published reports have asserted that the federal exchanges were unfunded by the law, and HHS officials have not clearly affirmed or denied those reports.
Harkin, who is the senior Senate Democrat overseeing healthcare funding, made it clear that the exchanges still require congressional appropriations.
"If the states won't do it, we go in and do it," Harkin said about the federal versions of state insurance exchanges.
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.