Debate Heating Up Over $245 Billion ‘Doc-Fix’ Bill
The Washington Post weighs in today on the Democrats’ $245 billion plan to overhaul the way Medicare pays doctors — a bill Senate leaders are trying to divorce from broader health care reform legislation so they won’t have to find the offsets to pay for it. The Post editorialists are no fans of the strategy.
The so-called doc fix is being rushed to the Senate floor this week in advance of health reform not because it has nothing to do with health reform but because it has everything to do with it. The political imperative is twofold: to make certain that Republicans don’t use the physician payment issue to bring down the larger bill and to placate the American Medical Association.
Indeed, as we pointed out today, the AMA, the nation’s largest physicians lobby, has so far declined to endorse the Senate health reform legislation. Having lost the insurance industry’s support recently, Democratic leaders are doing everything they can to ensure that the doctors won’t also jump ship. But it comes at the potential cost of adding nearly a quarter-trillion dollars to already enormous federal deficits. From The Post:
This latest maneuver only heightens the fiscal irresponsibility of what already was a fiscal sleight of hand. The measure passed by the Senate Finance Committee patched the problem for one year, at a cost just shy of $11 billion. The argument was that the rest of the problem could be dealt with — and, at least in theory, paid for — later. Now, Mr. Reid proposes not to pay for any of it, not even $11 billion, but simply to write a $247 billion IOU.
The Senate plans to take up the bill this week. The big question is whether it has the legs to get past the fiscal hawks in both parties.