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Posted at 7:09 p.m. on March 26, 2014
In the Senate, Wyden noted he is pushing a 10-year fix to the Medicare formula and would rather not take up the yearlong policy, calling it a “flawed proposal” that is “bad for seniors, bad for doctors and bad for all concerned.”
The Oregon Democrat said Boehner is on an island and announced the deal prematurely.
“What the speaker has said, at this point, speaks for the speaker. I’ve had conversations with Sen. Reid and they’ve been ongoing and he’s very much aware of what we’re doing,” he said.
But a senior Democratic aide later said Reid would back the short-term bill if it gets out of the House.
“Hatch talked to Reid this evening on the phone and informed him there would be no Republican votes for the Wyden plan,” the aide said Wednesday. “So it looks like the short-term Boehner patch plan is the only one that can pass right now — and we’ll support if it comes over.”
Wyden’s colleague on the Finance Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., earlier inferred that Wyden may in fact be the one scuttling a deal between Boehner and Reid.
“Ordinarily a Finance chairman doesn’t come in and screw up a speaker and a majority leader, right?” he said.
Either way, Fleming said he and many members of the Doctors Caucus want to push the long-term fix as well.
“We agree with Wyden. If you’re going to do something, let’s do the 10-year thing. If we patch this thing for another year, all we’re doing is letting the cord wood stack up. We’re not solving problems,” he said. “This is one way to get something huge off the table, at least for 10 years.”
Wyden said he was talking to Democrats and Republicans, yet his proposal may find no traction in the Senate. He said it pays for the 10-year, roughly $140 billion price from war funds, gleaned from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Critics of the budgeting technique say it is a gimmick because the money would never have been spent anyway.
House Republicans have long said they will not take up any legislation that uses those war funds as an offset. Wyden acknowledged that the offset is “not exactly realistic budgeting,” but said the doc fix is “budget fakery” too.
Pelosi expressed support for Wyden’s efforts Thursday.
“I wish Sen. Wyden well, of course, because he’s on the right course, he’s doing the good thing, and it makes all the sense in the world. It’s the right way to go. It costs less, does more, ends the discussion,” she said. “And so it’s hard to understand why the Republicans think that this is our only option.”
Meanwhile, members and doctors groups are concerned that a short-term fix would kill the momentum for a long-term fix. Boehner tried to scuttle that talk, telling reporters that the yearlong deal “does not preclude any work from being done on the long-term fix in terms of how we pay doctors.”
Nevertheless, several provider groups spoke out Wednesday against the short-term patch, saying another fix could hurt a bipartisan policy agreement to replace the Medicare physician payment system.
“Now is the time for Congress to resolve the remaining differences over how to address the budget impact of the bipartisan and bicameral SGR repeal and Medicare payment reform policies that both chambers and parties say that they support,” said American College of Physicians President Molly Cooke in a letter to House and Senate leadership. “There will never be a better time.”
The American Academy of Family Physicians also expressed disappointment and concern with the short-term patch. President Reid Blackwelder said in a statement that, “Congress is moving away from, rather than toward the goal.”
Emma Dumain, Steven T. Dennis, Matt Fuller and Emily Ethridge contributed to this report.