Health Reform Watch: No-Go for 1099 Repeal, Medicare Docs Sidestep Pay Cut

BY Lea Winerman  November 30, 2010 at 6:19 PM EST

We’re starting something new at Rx for Reform. Each week, we’ll update you on the latest health reform and health policy news happening in Washington, in statehouses, in courthouses and in the health care business. Here’s a look at three key stories right now:

U.S. Capitol

Senate Keeps Tax Filing Requirements, For Now

The Senate on Monday night failed to pass two separate measures that would have rolled back an unpopular provision of the health reform law that will require businesses to file tax forms for any purchases over $600.

The attempt to repeal this small part of the massive law has rare bipartisan support — even President Obama has suggested it could be tweaked. But Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on how to get rid of it. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., introduced competing repeal measures, but neither gained enough votes to pass Monday night.


Congress Passes a (Temporary) Doc Fix

Medicare doctors won’t get a 23 percent pay cut Wednesday, after the House on Monday followed the Senate in passing a one-month extension of the so-called “doc fix.” Health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser explained the doc fix issue in a recent blog post:

The roots of the issue go back more than a decade. In 1997, Congress adopted something called the “Sustainable Growth Rate” — a formula that was supposed to keep Medicare payments on track with growth in the economy. But a rapid escalation in health care costs in recent years has meant that those costs have grown faster than the economy as a whole — so the formula ends up each year calling for a cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

Congress has passed a series of short-term fixes — the most recent six-month fix passed in June — but has yet to come up with a long-term solution. They’ll need to return to the issue in January, as the bill passed Monday gives only a one-month reprieve.

To Watch Wednesday — Senate Panel Hears Mini-med Arguments

McDonald’s pushed mini-med plans into the spotlight last month when the fast-food giant said that requirements in the health reform law could force it to stop offering the low-cost, low-coverage-limit plans to its employees. For now, the administration has said it will exempt mini-meds from some of the new requirements. But critics say that the plans do not offer “real” health coverage and are not worth saving.

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hear arguments on both sides, from a McDonald’s VP and others, in a hearing entitled “Are mini-med Policies Really Health Insurance?” More information here.