Rep. Burgess: GOP leadership committed to permanent 'doc fix'

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Burgess said he would like to see the House pass a bill by this summer, but that a firm timeline hasn't been established and acknowledged that the legislative agenda is already getting crowded.

"There are still some big fights left to happen this year," he said.

But Burgess said Congress should move quickly so it can take advantage of an unexpected price cut from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

The CBO said in February that permanently repealing the payment formula would cost roughly $138 billion over 10 years — a drop of more than $100 billion since the CBO's previous estimate.

Healthcare experts aren't entirely sure why healthcare spending slowed in the most recent analysis — which means they can't predict when the price might go back up. Congress should act now, before the cost has a chance to rise again, Burgess said.

"I'd like to see us use the that as our benchmark and use that as the momentum to move this thing forward," Burgess said.

Burgess spoke with reporters shortly after House publicans unveiled a new plan to repeal Medicare's payment formula. 

There is broad bipartisan support for repealing the payment formula — the more difficult political problem is where to find the $138 billion to pay for it. 

Burgess acknowledged that there has not been any progress on finding offsets that could gain bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Talks are still focused on how to replace the formula, he said.

The current system calls for ever-increasing cuts in doctors' payments, which have now snowballed to nearly 30 percent. Congress routinely delays the scheduled cut from happening, requiring a series of expensive year-end patches.

Most doctors would still see a pay cut under the proposal House Republicans released Thursday, albeit a much smaller one than they would face if the scheduled 30 percent cut was allowed to take effect.

Burgess acknowledged that doctors aren't thrilled with that prospect, but he said most "understand this is the best bad deal they're going to get."

The most important thing, he said, is to give doctors some relief from the constant threat of massive cuts.

"The provider community is so tired of having to deal with this on an ongoing basis that they want something done," he said. "They realize it may not be ideal from their perspective, but they simply want the stability."