Paying for Medicare extension jeopardy

The defeat of a $247 billion provision to stave off steep cuts in doctor reimbursement rates under Medicare sent a strong signal to Democrats that their road to passing a sweeping health care bill this year will be more difficult than they anticipated.

Not only did the 47-53 vote show Majority Leader Harry Reid that lawmakers in his party will not easily get in line behind his yet-to-be unveiled health care plan, the defeat may push its cost well beyond the $900 billion limit set by President Obama.

“This is a budget buster,” said Brian Darling, director of Senate relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “This is going to add to the problems they are having in trying to find a way to pay for it. If they can't figure out a way to get around the cost issue, it will make it even tougher to pass.”

Congress has been keeping major cuts to Medicare payments to doctors at bay with annual extensions. But Senate Democrats wanted to use a 10-year fix to lure doctors into agreeing to back the Democratic health care reform proposal. Doctors face a 21 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement if no legislation is passed.

“Nobody wants to have a 21 percent reduction in doctor payments,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “But doing it by adding $247 billion to the deficit? I just couldn't abide.”

Republicans called the doctors fix bill a shell game aimed at artificially lowering the cost of their health care reform bill.

A Senate Finance Committee health care reform bill includes a one-year fix, worth about $15 billion. Some Democrats fear that once they bring a health care reform bill to the floor, leaders will amend it with the quarter-trillion-dollar fix. If that happens, Democrats will have to come up with a way to pay for it, either through more taxes or cuts to other programs.

“It should be paid for and it should be done in the context of a health care bill rather than separately,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican moderate from Maine who is involved in bipartisan health care reform negotiations. “It has a major implication for the Medicare program.”

Senate Democratic leaders are now searching for a way to get a fix passed separately to keep Republicans from tacking it onto health care reform legislation in an effort to defeat it.

“We can still do it outside of health care reform, which is how we do it every year anyway,” said Sen Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Democratic Senate leadership team. “We still have not decided yet.”

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Basketball (Shutterstock)
SI alum Begovich gets his moment, but Stanford falls on Senior Day

MAPLES PAVILION — Generally speaking, Stanford’s home finale on Saturday afternoon, a… Continue reading

U.S. Attorney David Anderson announces federal firearms charges against two men for their roles in a March 2019 shooting outside the Fillmore Heritage Center in a news conference alongside SFPD staff at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Departing U.S. attorney predicts corruption probe will continue

David Anderson shook up City Hall as top federal prosecutor

Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, a former school board member, has been asked to help secure an agreement between the school district and teacher’s union. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
 <ins></ins>
Supervisor Walton tapped to mediate teacher contract talks

District and union at odds over hours in-person students should be in the classroom

California is set to receive supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy photo)
California could receive 380K doses of new J&J COVID vaccine next week

California could receive 380,300 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

Most Read