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Senate Finance Committee Returns to Bipartisan Discussions on Medicare Physician Pay Patch Bill

20 06 08 - 15:57

The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday resumed bipartisan discussion on legislation that would curb a 10.6% cut to Medicare physician fees scheduled for July 1, according to a Senate aide, CongressDaily reports (Edney/Bourge, CongressDaily, 6/20). Finance Committee Republicans on Wednesday announced they would offer a pared-down bill to prevent the fee cut after ranking member Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) measure (S 3118) failed to receive consideration last week. Meanwhile, Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on Wednesday met with House Democratic leadership to discuss options for a Medicare package after his measure (S 3101) failed to receive enough votes for cloture last week (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 6/19).

Senate Democrats and Republicans are seeking to block the cut for 18 months and increase fees by 1.1% through 2009. However, Republicans are opposed to paying for the fix through cuts to private Medicare Advantage plans. In addition, Democrats have been pushing for an expansion of a low-income assistance program.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said that the House will write legislation and send it to the Senate if senators cannot come to an agreement. He said that a short-term physician pay patch is a "last-ditch, can't-agree-to-anything solution" (CongressDaily, 6/20).

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