Senate Dems Threaten to Oppose Deal on Medicare Doc Fees

Democratic senators would oppose a potential House bipartisan deal preventing cuts in physicians’ Medicare payments if it doesn’t finance a children’s health program for four years, senior Senate Democratic aides said Sunday.

The aides issued the threat as House bargainers try preventing a 21 percent reduction in doctors’ Medicare reimbursements scheduled for April 1. Negotiators want to craft an agreement annulling a 1997 formula that annually threatens deep cuts in those payments.

According to lobbyists and congressional aides, bargainers have discussed including money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program for two more years, costing around $5 billion. Its money is due to expire Oct. 1.

It was unclear if the Democratic aides’ comments were a firm line in the sand or negotiating pressure. Either way, they underscored how contentious it will be for the Medicare package to quickly clear Congress.