Senate panel might suspend scheduled reduction in Medicare physician fees

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The Senate Finance Committee considered a $30 billion Medicare package this week that would reverse a 10.1 percent reduction in physician fees scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2008, CQ Healthbeat reported. The details of the proposal remain undetermined.

The package, proposed by Committee Chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., would suspend the scheduled reduction in physician fees for two years, increase payments to providers in rural areas and prevent a reduction in rehabilitation therapy reimbursements.

Another committee member, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also proposed a one-year suspension of the scheduled reduction in fees, which would require a smaller decrease in payments to private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans and other areas to offset the cost, according to CQ Healthbeat. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said that the committee would not follow a House proposal to reduce reimbursements to private MA plans by $50 billion.

According to Congress Daily, the committee also considered reductions in Medicare reimbursements for medical imaging and home oxygen services, according to Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. He added that Democrats "had a list of 10 or 12 areas that could be impacted" to offset the cost of their Medicare package. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said that a timetable for a mark up of the Medicare package remains undetermined, reported CQ Healthbeat.