Doc Fix Before March 31 Appears Unlikely

The prospects for a permanent doc fix prior to the March 31 deadline are looking increasingly remote.

The prospects for a permanent doc fix prior to the March 31 deadline are looking increasingly remote. No agreement has been reached on how to pay for a permanent repeal and replacement of Medicare's unpopular sustainable growth-rate formula for physician payments.

The House plans to vote for a patch this week, according to a source familiar with discussions, although it remains uncertain how long a period it will cover. Previously, the House approved a Republican-sponsored bill to pay for repeal by delaying the individual mandate for five years—a nonstarter for Democrats. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the House bill would cost $138 billion over 10 years and result in 13 million fewer people having health insurance coverage.

The Senate has yet to make clear how it intends to pay for a repeal. But a key staffer for Senate Finance chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) indicated last week that he's “very open” to tapping Overseas Contingency Operations funding—which currently pays for military operations—to cover the cost. The CBO has estimated that the Senate version of the bill, which includes extensions of several Medicare payment programs, would cost $180 billion over 10 years.

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Source: Modern Healthcare