Lawmakers Agree To Extend COBRA Benefits, Delay Medicare Cuts And Give States More Money For Medicaid

Democratic committee leaders unveiled a tax extensions package today that would continue to allow laid-off employees "to get subsidies to buy health insurance through the COBRA program" and would "spare doctors from a scheduled 21 percent cut in Medicare payments," The Associated Press reports. It would also give states money to cover Medicaid costs (Ohlemacher, 5/20).  

The Hill's On The Money: "On the Medicare issue, a summary released by [Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Sandy Levin (D-Mich.)] indicates physicians will not see the cuts in their payments and will instead receive 'reasonable updates' to rates for the rest of 2010 and in 2011. In 2012 and 2013, rates would continue to grow if spending growth is 'within reasonable limits.' Extra money would be set aside for primary care and preventive care, which were priorities in the new healthcare law" (Heflin, 5/20).

The Hill, in a separate story: "The 'doc fix' provision is still being scored by the Congressional Budget Office, but will cost less than the $88.5 billion cushion the House can use to pass legislation without offsets under pay-go rules." Additionally, after the three-year window, "the payment formula would revert to the current system, meaning physicians would once again face drastic cuts unless Congress acts again in the future." The overall extenders package is expected to be considered by the House Rules Committee Thursday (Pecquet, 5/20).

CQ: The Medicare "extension is shorter than the five-year physician payment adjustment that many House Democrats had sought, and it was pared back over the past few days to make Senate passage easier." In addition, the bill "would extend special Medicaid assistance to states through June 30, 2011, at a cost of $24 billion over 10 years, and extend an emergency fund for low-income families."

"The release of the bill summary ... could allow the House to consider the measure (HR 4213) as early as Friday, if leaders can persuade moderate Democrats to vote for a measure that would increase the federal budget deficit. It also remains unclear whether Senate Democrats will be able to muster the 60 votes they will need to advance the package" (Rubin, 5/20).

Read a summary of the bill.

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