'Doc Fix' Dilemma Makes Debt Panel's Job More Difficult

According to Reuters, sources indicate panel members are interested in taking on this Medicare issue, but doing so would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and complicate their efforts to find federal budget savings. Meanwhile, in related news, AHIP — America's Health Insurance Plans — is lobbying the committee regarding an approach to debt reduction that involves coordinating care for dual eligibles.

Reuters: U.S. Deficit Panel Weighs Medicare Doctor Payments
The congressional super committee charged with reducing U.S. budget deficits is considering tackling a measure that could make their job even harder by preventing a steep pay cut for Medicare doctors. The bipartisan panel that has been tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over 10 years has a "strong interest" in taking up the doctor payment issue, sources familiar with panel discussions said on Wednesday. But doing so would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and thus complicate deficit-reduction work (Smith, 10/12).

Bloomberg: Health Insurers Bid To Take Elderly Poor Out Of U.S. Plans
The U.S. may save as much as $125 billion over a decade if health insurers manage care for about 9 million people now covered by Medicare because of their age and Medicaid because they're poor, the companies have told Congress. America's Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP, the Washington-based trade group for insurers, is lobbying the congressional super committee studying debt reduction to allow states to hire health plans such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) to direct care for the indigent elderly and disabled, whose medical needs now cost taxpayers as much as $230 billion a year. More than half of this group suffers from five or more chronic conditions, and their care costs twice as much on average as patients just covered by Medicare, a study published by the insurers’ group found (Wayne, 10/12).

CQ HealthBeat: AHIP Says Coordination Key To Dual Eligibility Dilemma
America's Health Insurance Plans on Wednesday added its voice to those who say that better coordination of care is the answer to treating the group of frail elderly covered by Medicare and Medicaid. And, in AHIP's view, the ultimate solution is to have these patients in one plan, not two. AHIP's proposal outlines a series of steps states can take to better integrate the care of this population and it takes into account that states are in different stages of using managed care to cover Medicaid patients (Bunis, 10/12).

Kaiser Health News: What Is The Super Committee Doing? Advocates Elbow Lawmakers On Cuts
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with KFF's Jackie Judd about the latest in talks around the super committee's efforts to cut the deficit. Advocates and lawmakers are busy whispering what health programs should be shielded from cuts and which should be on the chopping block (10/12).

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