Health groups told they must fight for “doc fix”

One attendee told The Hill that the attendees were told to do all they can to put pressure on lawmakers “because time is running out.”

Attendees were warned that the package may yet move without any doc fix at all, according to one lobbyist briefed on the meeting led by Pelosi senior policy adviser Wendell Primus.

“I think they were told go make noise and break arms or nada,” the lobbyist said. “So nada is the base now and they’ve got to work for more.”

The Medicare “doc fix” is a key sticking point in the tax extenders bill. House leaders have had to delay moving the bill because the Senate doesn’t have the votes to pass a long-term fix if it’s not offset with spending cuts or tax increases.

The House and Senate are still trying to work out a deal on the package that the Senate can easily pass once it clears the House.

Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.) reiterated Wednesday his intention to have the House pass the bill this week, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has committed to passing the measure before the Memorial Day recess – or keeping his members in session if they don’t.

Several House Democrats said Wednesday that the American Medical Association’s opposition to anything other than a permanent repeal of the payment formula may make it more likely that the House will pass a short-term patch.

“That makes (a five-year fix) really tough,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). “And it makes us a little short-tempered about doing it.”

Other groups have sounded more willing than the AMA to compromise.

A spokeswoman for the American College of Radiology tells The Hill that the group “continues to push for a permanent payment solution.”

“We want the SGR repealed,” the spokeswoman said. “However, Congress also must not allow the cuts to go through on June 1 and we are advocating on behalf of cardiology members in that regard.”

This story was posted at 7:40 p.m. and updated at 9:06 p.m.