KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Hopes Dim For Medicare Doctor Payment Fix This Year, Short-Term Patch Is Likely

Lawmakers are proposing another patch to temporarily fix the Sustainable Growth Rate, while a permanent fix is being readied in Senate and House committees.

CQ HealthBeat: Ways And Means Aims For Doc Fix Markup Next Week, But Offsets In Question
The House Ways and Means Committee is working towards marking up bipartisan legislation next week to replace how Medicare reimburses physicians, giving hope that lawmakers are that much closer to a permanent solution (Ethridge and Attias, 12/4).

Politico: Permanent 'Doc Fix' Unlikely This Year
Lawmakers have all but given up on efforts to permanently replace the Medicare physician payment formula this year and have refocused their effort on getting it done in 2014. Both the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means committees are expected to vote next week on a proposal that would permanently repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate and establish a new formula for paying doctors and hospitals that treat Medicare patients. It's a rare bipartisan, bicameral approach that would forever eliminate the need for the universally hated annual "doc fix" (Haberkorn and Cunningham, 12/5).

MedPage Today: SGR: Once More Kicked Down The Road?
Meanwhile, Congress is considering a short-term SGR patch to stave off for up to 3 months the roughly 24 percent Medicare pay cuts scheduled to start in 2014 in order to give lawmakers time to address a permanent SGR repeal. Wednesday's update -- which was not released by the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees as of press time -- provides a more fleshed out SGR-repeal proposal than the version lawmakers released in October (Pittman, 12/4).

In other Capitol Hill news --

CQ HealthBeat: Former CBO Chief Argues For Reversal Of Cuts To Insurer-Run Medicare Plans
A former Congressional Budget Office chief argued for an end to cuts to insurer-run Medicare Advantage at a House hearing Wednesday, while Democrats contended that these reductions merely ended a pattern of paying private companies more to coordinate health services than the federal agency would have spent on its own (Young, 12/4).

The Associated Press: Abortion Covered In Most Health Plans For Congress
More than 90 percent of health insurance plans offered to lawmakers and congressional staff cover abortion, an unforeseen consequence of a Republican amendment to President Barack Obama’s health law. The disclosure Wednesday by abortion opponent Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., also highlights an emerging issue nationally: It may be hard for individual consumers to determine whether abortion is a covered benefit in plans offered through the new online insurance markets (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/4).

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