Senate Dems say emerging Medicare deal does not pass 'test'

Senate Dems say emerging Medicare deal does not pass 'test'
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Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee on Saturday issued a joint statement saying the emerging deal in the House to avert cuts to doctors under Medicare currently does not pass their "test."
 
“Though we have not been part of negotiations in the House on the total package, we want to be clear that any legislation of this magnitude sent to the Senate must be balanced," the senators said. "Unfortunately, our current understanding of what the House is negotiating does not sufficiently pass that test."
 
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Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTrump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election MORE (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have been negotiating a deal for a long-term fix to automatic cuts to doctors under Medicare known as the Sustainable Growth Rate. Bipartisan committee leaders in the House released a "working summary" of a package on Friday afternoon.
 
While the Senate Finance Committee Democrats say they support the goal of ending the SGR, they raise concerns about other aspects of the package. 
 
Senate Democrats had been pushing for a four-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as part of the deal, but the emerging package includes only a two-year extension. 
 
Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress faces growing health care crisis in Puerto Rico Photos of the Week: Nov. 13-17 Senate panel approves GOP tax plan MORE (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, on Thursday raised concerns about an "abortion policy rider" in the package.
 
The working summary of the agreement also includes making wealthier seniors pay a higher percentage of premium costs to help pay for the package. 
 
The Finance Committee Democrats raised all of these issues in the statement.
 
“Some of us are worried about the level of increased costs to beneficiaries who are already responsible for significant health expenses," they said. "Others are concerned about the potential impact on women’s health services. Some are concerned about the extent to which this legislation is not paid for, while others are troubled by the effects of additional provider cuts."
 
They also singled out CHIP funding for four years as key.
 
"While our concerns vary, we are united by the necessity of extending CHIP funding for four years," they said. "We understand that our colleagues in the House are contemplating a short-term funding extension of only two years."
 
Asked about the statement Saturday, a Pelosi spokesman referred The Hill to statements of support for the emerging package from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Families USA.
 
“Bipartisan House leaders should be congratulated for coming together on a bill that can now move forward," Families USA, a pro-ObamaCare health non-profit, said in a statement Friday pointing to the CHIP extension. "The health care of at least 8 million children hinges on this funding extension."
 
"Given that the likely alternative is another short-term patch that fails to fix the SGR and extends CHIP for only a very short time, if at all, the House should approve the compromise," the CBPP said in a statement Friday as well.
 
On Thursday, Pelosi's office also pushed back on concerns about the abortion provision and said it is language in the bill that applies the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds from abortions, to community health centers.
 
A spokesman for Pelosi's office said the language is just continuing the status quo, and that an executive order and Health Department regulations already require Hyde language to be applied to health center funding.
 
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In the House, some Democrats have also raised concerns about the two-year CHIP extension and making wealthier seniors pay more, but there is also an openness among some to support the package anyway.
 
Some House conservatives have also objected to the budgetary effects, but others, including the leaders of the GOP Doctors Caucus, are supporting the package. 
 
The Finance Committee Democrats say they understand that there will be compromise in any agreement. 
 
But they said a four-year CHIP extension and a "balance of offsets" should be part of what is included in a compromise. 
 
"Without it, there is no guarantee," they said.