Obama threatens to veto GOP 'doc fix' bill

President Obama is threatening to veto a Republican bill to reform Medicare's flawed physician payment system while delaying ObamaCare's individual mandate by five years.

In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House praised the bill's efforts on Medicare but slammed the GOP for seeking to pull back the policy linchpin of the Affordable Care Act.


The individual mandate "is essential to ensuring that the 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions can get coverage without being charged more or losing coverage when they get sick," the statement read. "This legislation would result in higher numbers of uninsured Americans, higher premiums for those who remain insured and fewer premium tax credits for middle-income families."

With the vote, expected for Friday, House Republican leaders are hoping to put Democrats in a tough spot by tying broadly supported Medicare reforms to an ObamaCare delay that would undermine the new marketplaces.

GOP leaders argue that individuals should not be required to purchase insurance this yea,r given the various delays and exemptions for businesses under the healthcare law.

The Medicare side of the legislation resulted from more than a year of discussion among lawmakers in the House and Senate.

For a decade, Congress has regularly patched Medicare payments to physicians to avoid major cuts ordered by law.

The bill would repeal the flawed sustainable growth rate formula that requires those cuts and implement a new system intended to encourage better quality care for seniors.

The permanent "doc fix" would cost about $138 billion over 10 years, an enormous sum in a budgetary climate that's already produced a series of deep healthcare cuts.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) proposed paying for the reform by delaying penalties under the individual mandate for five years.

This move would, counterintuitively, raise money in the budget by lowering the number of people expected to receive tax subsidies to make their health insurance more affordable.

The Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that the legislation would increase the number of people without health insurance by 13 million in 2018 and raise premiums 10 percent to 20 percent on the individual market.