Sebelius defends doc fix strategy

Sebelius, pointing out that the budget's two-year fix would be the longest in SGR history, echoed President Obama's assertion that the administration wants to work with lawmakers on entitlement reform.

"[The SGR] has never been addressed in a permanent fix, and we think that's very important to do," Sebelius said. "We look forward to working with you and your committee."

The two-year proposal includes $62 billion in offsets that largely avoid touching other healthcare providers. It includes a number of politically tough provisions, such as getting generic versions of biologic drugs to market faster and restricting generic manufacturers' ability to drop patent challenges in exchange for cash payments from brand-name drug makers.

The healthcare reform law, Sebelius argued, provided a baseline for reforming the Medicare program. The sweeping overhaul slows the growth of Medicare spending by $500 billion over 10 years.

"Not a single guaranteed benefit is touched in that $500 billion," she said. 

Congress voted five times last year to delay cuts in Medicare physician payments. The most recent $19 billion fix expires at the end of the year, and physicians would see a 28 percent cut in Medicare payments in January if another fix isn't enacted.