POL­ICY:

Hope fades for long-term so­lu­tion from Congress

Modern Healthcare - - FRONT PAGE - Rich Daly and Jes­sica Zig­mond

Time run­ning out for long-term so­lu­tion to SGR prob­lem

Fears are grow­ing that an­other twom­onth tem­po­rary patch for Medi­care physi­cian pay rates is in­creas­ingly pos­si­ble as con­gres­sional ne­go­ti­a­tions on a long-term so­lu­tion to the prob­lem ap­peared dead­locked.

A bi­par­ti­san con­gres­sional con­fer­ence com­mit­tee aims to avert an au­to­matic 27.4% cut by Medi­care’s sus­tain­able growth-rate for­mula for physi­cians on March 1 when a two-month freeze at last year’s rates ex­pires.

The two par­ties have locked into op­pos­ing ap­proaches, ac­cord­ing to con­gres­sional sources, with Repub­li­cans gen­er­ally fa­vor­ing a two-year ex­ten­sion of the cur­rent rates and Democrats push­ing for elim­i­na­tion of the pay­ment for­mula and its sched­uled cuts.

But the pri­mary ob­sta­cle to any move­ment on the is­sue, mem­bers of Congress and other sources said, is the stark dif­fer­ences in ways pro­posed to pay for ei­ther ap­proach. Democrats pri­mar­ily want to use a one-time bud­get off­set of “sav­ings” stem­ming from the end of the Iraq War, while Repub­li­cans con­tinue to push bud­get cuts, in­clud­ing at least $44.6 bil­lion in 10-year health­care cuts.

“I think it needs to pass the straight-face test,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-ohio) said in a news con­fer­ence last week about pro­posed fund­ing al­ter­na­tives. “The fact is, we are go­ing to spend less in our war ef­forts

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