Health Care

More details on possible Medicare deal emerge

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Two key House committees offered new details late Friday about an emerging deal to replace Medicare’s doctor payment formula.

The committee’s latest updates leave out the biggest remaining hurdle for the legislation: its price tag. But the joint statements from both Republican and Democratic members suggest that a deal is near.

“I’m optimistic that we will soon reach a comprehensive bipartisan agreement long in the making,” Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, wrote in a statement.

{mosads}The deal is expected to cost $200 billion, with about one-third offset. 

The two committees — Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce — confirmed for the first time Friday that the Medicare “doc fix” deal would include a two-year extension of the children’s health insurance program (CHIP).

The health program has been a major bargaining piece for Democrats, who had pushed for a four-year extension. Democrats also secured more funding for the government’s community health center program through 2017.

The committees also confirmed that the deal would bring in some new revenue by asking the wealthiest beneficiaries to pay more toward their Medicare premiums. It would affect about 2 percent of all beneficiaries.

Anyone making more than $133,500 per year would start paying 65 percent of their total premium costs, up from 50 percent. Individuals making more than $160,000 will pay 75 percent of their premiums, up from 65 percent. 

Many of these measures had been anticipated, though the committees had previously declined to publicly share details. More information about the costs and offsets is expected to come from House leadership as early as Monday.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) released a bill Thursday that includes 200 pages of policy language, but said the group is still working out the “pay-fors.”

House Republicans are expecting broad support for the bill, though there is still some question about how many fiscal conservatives will oppose a deal that is not fully paid for within the next decade. 

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is one of the party’s most-respected members dealing with the budget, gave an important endorsement for the proposal Friday.

“This framework would be an important first step to saving Medicare for our seniors,” Ryan wrote in a statement. “These reforms would strengthen Medicare over the long term and move us toward a more patient-centered system.”

Tags doc fix Medicare Michael Burgess Paul Ryan

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