“The Fiscal Commission Budget Plan recognizes that rising healthcare costs represent the single largest factor contributing to the nation's long-term fiscal imbalance,” according to an overview of the budget released Tuesday.
Conrad's budget, which he emphasized is a starting point in a long process to reach bipartisan consensus, would eliminate the budget sequestration's 2% Medicare provider cuts planned to begin in 2013 and the Medicare physician payment system, which is slated to implement a 32% cut in January. But the plan's offsets include accelerating the hospital rate cutting authority of the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board and cutting Medicare payments for bad hospital debt and medical education.
Conrad said his plan would have better success than the original deficit plan on which it is based because Congress could use it to avoid both the unpopular sequester and trillions of dollars in tax increases slated for the start of next year. That plan garnered little support from Obama and only 38 votes in a March vote by the House of Representatives.
The dual pressures looming at the end of this year make it more likely Congress will agree to some version of the plan in either the lame duck post-election session of Congress or sometime early next year, Conrad said.
“Like the original fiscal commission plan, it does not reopen the healthcare reform debate, instead it builds on health reform by providing additional health savings,” Conrad said during a Tuesday news conference.
Federal law requires Congress to pass annual budgets to set the government's overall spending levels; however, there are no enforcement provisions of that requirement.