Rubio presses HHS to soften Medicare Advantage cuts

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CMS based its proposed 2.2 percent cut on a series of economic assumptions that relied on current law — including a drastic reduction in Medicare's payments to doctors.

But that cut has been built into the law for years, and Congress almost always comes up with a short-term "doc fix" to avoid it. Rubio said CMS should recalculate its Medicare Advantage cuts under the assumption that Congress will pass another "doc fix" and the scheduled cut to doctors won't happen.

The doc fix is a perennial headache for budget wonks — because the cuts are enshrined in law and each patch is only temporary, it artificially lowers projected Medicare spending in budget baselines.

Rubio, though, said CMS has the legal authority to base its payment rates on an assumption that Congress will act, rather than on the letter of the law.

"At a time when a number of other significant policy changes also are impacting the MA program, I believe it is important for you to address this specific issue through the administrative process," Rubio wrote.