House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have joined forces on bipartisan legislation to change the controversial method that Medicare pays doctors.
Boehner is expecting a fight from some conservatives over the $200 billion package, and he's already started building a coalition of both parties to head off a potential crisis in the final hours, Politico reported
Pelosi may also face some opposition from her members – even though the current system of doctors' Medicare payments has been a bone of contention to both parties for more than a decade, according to the political news website.
The bill could be introduced for a vote as early as this week by the House committees dealing with healthcare policy before potentially heading to the Senate, where it also faces a stern test.
The basic concept of the bill is to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate, the plan calling for deep cuts to Medicare providers, and replace it with a new payment formula. The legislation would end the need for constant "doc fixes" that have angered both parties.
The plan would also extend funding for two years to the Children's Health Insurance Program, currently due to end in September, with increased payment rates approved under Obamacare.
But even if the House approves the measure, it could run into a roadblock in the Senate, according to Politico, noting that Pelosi has recently reached out to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid for his support.
Reid said that, if given the green light by the lower chamber, he would present it to his caucus, which could result in a compromise between Senate Democrats and Republicans, the report stated.
The legislation is due to reach the House two weeks ahead of the expiration of the current "doc fix." Politico says without a new fix or passage of a replacement plan, physicians would see a 21 percent cut in payments starting April 1.
The Sustainable Growth Rate has resulted in 17 "fixes" to prevent steep cuts to providers over 14 years. Last year, leading Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate health committees agreed on a replacement plan, which is expected to be included in the bill, but failed to find a solution on how to fund it.
Under the bipartisan bill, the $200 billion package would be only partially funded over the next 10 years, which is certain to anger some conservatives, according to Politico.
The initial $70 billion in funding would come from cuts to healthcare providers, such as hospitals, acute-care providers and insurers. The other half would be through cuts to Medicare beneficiaries, such as additional means testing for high-income seniors.
But these reductions will probably be a major issue with some Democrats who have long dismissed any cuts that would affect seniors on Medicare, the report added.
While noting that conservative groups are deeply divided over the proposal, Politico says Heritage Action for America declared last week that it opposes any Medicare payment reform plan that isn't fully funded.
On the other hand, Americans for Tax Reform is in favor of the deal, saying a short-term deficit is sustainable in the short run as long as the plan generates major Medicare savings in the long term.
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