GOP doctors say stand-alone 'doc fix' needed if no payroll tax cut deal

House Republican doctors say leadership should consider a stand-alone "doc fix" if the Senate doesn't agree to a conference committee on the larger payroll tax package.

Doctors are facing a nearly 30 percent cut in their Medicare payments if Congress doesn't act by the end of the year — and it's increasingly likely that Congress won't.

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Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) told reporters Tuesday that he believes the Senate will agree to go to conference and reconcile the two chambers' payroll tax extensions. But if Senate Democrats hold firm, he said, the doc fix should pass on its own.

"I absolutely think if everything goes to heck in a hand basket, then clearly we just have to do this for the doctors and pull that out as a stand-alone bill, and I think that will happen in that event," Gingrey said.

The Senate bill would delay the cut in doctors' payments for two months, compared with two years in the House bill. If there is a conference committee, Gingrey said, it might need members who are attuned to the issue.

"We even talked about the importance of maybe the Speaker appointing a senior member of the House GOP Doctors' Caucus to the committee," he said. "I didn't jump up and raise my hand, but I think they know my name."

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Tenn.), who chairs the House GOP Health Care Caucus, also supports a stand-alone doc fix. Doctors in the GOP caucus previously asked leadership to consider moving a two-year doc fix on its own, but they opted to leave the measure in the same package as the payroll tax extension.

The federal Medicare agency told doctors on Monday that it would hold their claims for 10 business days while waiting for Congress to avert the looming payment cut. But that won't last until Congress is scheduled to reconvene in January. If no agreement is reached, the cut will go into effect and Medicare would have to repay doctors retroactively once Congress makes a decision.