Legislative Update for Week Ending December 14, 2012

Legislative Update for Week Ending December 14, 2012

This week, talks to avert the Fiscal Cliff seemed to come to a stand-still, and one Congressional leader began working on a “Plan B” to prevent scheduled pay cuts for Medicare providers.

Fiscal Cliff Talks at Stand-Still

Negotiations to avert the Fiscal Cliff seemed to hit a wall this week, with leaders on both sides of the aisle agreeing that their proposals are simply too far apart. Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-8) asked this week: “Where are the President’s spending cuts? The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the Fiscal Cliff.” Democrats, on the other hand, are waiting for movement on revenues from the Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) stated this week, “Until we hear something from the Republicans, there’s nothing to do.”

With talks moving slowly, leaders on Capitol Hill are preparing to extend the lame-duck session through the upcoming holidays. If a deal is not reached by Saturday, the 16th, staff on Capitol Hill say there will not be enough time to develop legislative language, vet it, and pass it before December 25th. At this point, Members of Congress are planning to break for a two-day period at most for the holidays, and then return to Washington for the remainder of the month. The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) will continue to post updates on the evolving negotiations here in the Legislative News section of our website.

“Plan B” Surfaces to Prevent Doctor Pay Cuts

This week, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (MI-6) began working on a stand-alone package that would prevent a scheduled pay cut for doctors and other providers who treat Medicare patients. Presumably, the so-called “doc fix” will be included in a year-end package to avert the Fiscal Cliff, but with the deadline nearing and so little progress to date, a back-up option to prevent the 27 percent pay cut has become a necessity.

The package, which would cost an estimated $30 billion over ten years, would maintain current provider reimbursement rates for one year. Rep. Upton seemed confident that it would pass easily in the House, but he could not say with certainty that the Senate would vote in favor of it. When asked about his hopes for a grand bargain, the Chairman stated: “We have time. The wheels are spinning … Stay tuned.”

The Senior Citizens League sincerely hopes that Congress will pass a “doc fix” by the end of this year. Failing to do so would greatly affect Medicare beneficiaries’ access to quality care. Some physicians have stopped accepting Medicare patients due to the scheduled pay cuts, and many more are threatening to do so. TSCL encourages you contact your Representative and Senators to request their support for a temporary “doc fix.” To find contact information for your Members of Congress, click HERE.