GOP to tie individual mandate to doc fix

The House will vote next week on legislation to delay ObamaCare's individual mandate and prevent a cut in Medicare payments to doctors. 

Republicans are putting the two bills together so that revenue generated by delaying the individual mandate could be used to pay for preventing a cut in doctor payments. 

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House aides confirmed that GOP leaders are looking at combining the individual mandate bill to "doc fix" legislation sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas).

Merging the two bills could make the vote particularly difficult for Democrats, who would be forced to support a delay of the mandate that people buy health insurance or face a penalty, in order to vote for the popular doc fix.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said on the House floor Thursday that GOP leaders would bring up the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act, H.R. 4015, next week. SGR is the sustainable growth rate program that is supposed to deliver cuts to Medicare doctors, but those cuts have routinely been dodged by Congress in various "doc fix" bills.

While the individual mandate would bring in revenue in the form of fines from people who don't sign up for a health plan, past scores have said implementing the mandate actually costs $9 billion a year. A House GOP aide said the proposed language would be a delay of the individual mandate for several years, but probably less than 10.

In response to questions on the floor from House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Conaway agreed that H.R. 4015 in its current form has no "pay-for," but said Republicans would add a "pay-for" to the bill before it hits the floor next week.

On Wednesday, the House voted 250-160 to delay penalties against people who fail to buy health insurance under ObamaCare. That vote won 27 Democrats, which showed bipartisan support for a bill that is unlikely to be taken up in the Senate.

But broad Democratic opposition to delaying the individual mandate means there is a risk that the House could pass the combined bill, only to see the Senate reject it as the March 31 deadline for the next doc fix approaches. Today, Hoyer warned that the House should be careful about tying language to the doc fix bill that endangers its passage in the Senate.

— This story was last updated at 4:46 p.m.