House passes a $45 billion legislative package impacting federal health care programs.

This afternoon, the House passed a $45 billion legislative package impacting taxes, trade and federal health care programs. The package now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The massive bills were quickly compiled over the last several days by Senate and House Republican leaders and, among other things, would prevent a scheduled 5% cut in Medicare physician payments in 2007, freezing payments at their current levels. Beginning in July 2007, physicians could receive 1.5% bonus payments in exchange for submission of data on quality measures.

Of importance to NAAOP, the legislation would not cut the O&P Medicare fee schedule and, therefore, O&P will maintain its 4.3% update in 2007. Also, in terms of disability-related policy, the legislation would extend the Medicare therapy cap exception process for an additional year, allowing beneficiaries requiring extensive therapy services to exceed the current Medicare therapy limit.

In order to pay for the physician payment freeze and other costly provisions, lawmakers are targeting the Medicare Modernization Act’s (MMA) “stabilization fund” – set up to entice insurance companies to participate in the Medicare prescription drug program. Other cost-saving provisions include a .5% reduction in Medicaid provider taxes (preempting expected CMS regulations that would have cut payments by 3%) and an “audit program to identify and collect on inaccurate Medicare overpayments and underpayments to specialized contractors.”

During House debate, many Democrats raised concern regarding the procedures and timeframe surrounding consideration of the bill. However, the legislative package is expected to face much greater opposition in the Senate from Members who oppose several of the trade provisions as well as some of the high cost items. Senate rules technically allow debate on the measure until Sunday, but leadership is hoping that they will be able to invoke cloture earlier than that.

We will keep you updated as developments occur.

For a copy of the summary of the healthcare provisions in the bill provided by the House Ways and Means Committee, please contact NAAOP at info@naaop.org.

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