KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Lame Duck Update: Congress Delays Medicare Payment Cuts, Fails To Roll Back Health Law’s 1099 Provision

The Associated Press: Congress on Monday agreed to delay - for one month -  a cut in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors, "giving a short-term reprieve to a looming crisis over treatment of the nation's elderly." A 23 percent cut to doctors was scheduled for Dec. 1. "That gives lawmakers a month to come up with a longer-term plan to overhaul a system that in recent years has bedeviled Congress, angered doctors and jeopardized health care for 46 million elderly and disabled." President Obama wants a one-year fix for the system that would give lawmakers time to decide how the budget formula would be permanently fixed. "It is estimated that repeal of the current budget formula would cost $300 billion over 10 years that would have to be made up with other spending cuts or added to the deficit" (Abrams, 11/29).

The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog: If the reimbursement rate formula isn't fixed again by Jan. 1, the reduction to physician payments would be "on the order of 25 percent," American Medical Association President Cecil Wilson says. (Hobson, 11/29).

Modern Healthcare quoted a statement from Wilson: "While this short-term delay helps ensure that physicians can continue to care for seniors for the next month, congressional action early in December to stop the cut for one year will inject stability into the Medicare program and ensure that Medicare delivers on its promise of health coverage for America's seniors" (Zigmond, 11/29).

Meanwhile, in a separate, The Associated Press reports that the Senate "rejected an effort to reduce tax-related paperwork for businesses when lawmakers couldn't agree on whether they would make up the revenue the new requirement was expected to produce." The requirement is meant to raise money - $19 billion during the next decade - to help pay for the health law. "Under the new law, nearly 40 million U.S. businesses would start filing tax forms [called 1099 forms] in 2012 for every vendor that sells them more than $600 in goods. Many Democrats who supported the filing requirement now acknowledge that it would create a paperwork nightmare, but whether to make up for the lost revenue has divided senators who agree it should be repealed" (Ohlemacher, 11/29).

The New York Times: "A Democratic plan to overturn [the provision] attracted only 44 votes in support with 53 against; a Republican plan that would have cut other programs to make up the shortfall caused by the repeal fell short on a vote of 61 to 35 [67 votes were needed]. … Despite the inability to overturn the provision, Senate officials said they expected that another vote on repeal would come soon, given the support the idea has in both parties. ... Republicans said the fight over the 1099 requirement was just the first to come in their efforts to unravel the health law" (Hulse, 11/29).

Bloomberg: "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, both based in Washington, and the Nashville-based National Federation of Independent Business supported repeal of the 1099 rule, saying the requirement would be cumbersome for business owners" (Young, 11/29).

Finally, Democrats are urging passage of a bill that would "aid workers who got sick after working at the site of the [Sept. 11] terrorist attacks," CQ HealthBeat reports The Senate has already passed the bill. "Lawmakers say they have been promised a vote on the bill during this lame duck session. … Under the measure, the Department of Health and Human Services would operate a 10-year program to treat and monitor aid workers who have reported medical problems as a result their exposure to the World Trade Center site during the attack and the cleanup." The program would be paid for by closing a tax loophole on multinational companies (Bunis, 11/30).

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