In the latest proposal to stall Obamacare’s mandate that all Americans have health insurance, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has scheduled a Friday vote to tie it to the permanent “doc fix.”
The vote is on a bipartisan, bicameral proposal to repeal and replace the broken sustainable growth rate formula used to determine Medicare payments made to physicians. That proposal — also known as the permanent doc fix — has stalled as Congress searches for a way to pay for its $138 billion price tag.
GOP Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas is the sponsor of the House version of the bill, which carries a delay of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate as its pay-for.
Delaying the individual mandate by one year would save $9 billion, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. That’s because fewer people would have health insurance or enroll in Medicaid, saving the government billions of dollars as fewer people seek subsidies for insurance premiums or get care at all.
How long of a delay the legislation calls for in order to cover the cost of the permanent doc fix has yet to be announced. But the proposal is sure to be vetoed by the president if not shot down in the Senate.
Tying the SGR talks to the individual mandate further slows the negotiations on how to pay for the proposal, which had the American Medical Association in Washington last week to pressure congressional leadership to get it done.
If Congress does not reach agreement on the permanent doc fix by March 31, physicians who provide services to Medicare beneficiaries face a 20 percent pay cut.
Passing the legislation would be a big achievement for Congress, which has voted every year since 2003 to stop the cuts to doctors’ pay that are mandated to take effect by SGR formula at a cost of roughly $150 billion. The permanent fix carries a lower price tag than in previous years, which is why key stakeholders such as the AMA and policymakers involved in the negotiations had been positive about the potential for a long-term solution.
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Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.
Members of Congress are eyeing a one-week spending bill which would keep the government open past the Friday night deadline, giving lawmakers an extra week to iron out a long-term deal to fund the government. Without any action, the government would run out of funding starting at midnight Saturday. “I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
"President Trump informed Mexican President Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday afternoon that he will not pull the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) despite reports earlier in the day that he had considered doing so. ... The three leaders agreed to proceed quickly with renegotiation plans as the initial review process comes to a close."
"A new bill to revive a permanent nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nev., fails to address the concerns of Nevada lawmakers, suggesting the latest attempt may not resolve a 20-year impasse over the issue." The state's congressional delegation "shared their opposition to the nuclear waste policy amendment during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing focused on the legislation," and promised that Gov. Brian Sandoval would oppose it at every turn. "The new bill aims to finally use some $31 billion that has accumulated in the Nuclear Waste Fund, set aside in 1982 to collect specifically for a permanent repository."