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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jobs Bill Compromise Greases Skids For Passage of Obamacare

One of the budgetary "cheats" in the Obamacare bill revolves around medicare payments to doctors.

The way medicare fees to doctors are set, a target each year for Medicare expenditures on physician services, based on growth in the gross domestic product. If those expenses are more than that target, Medicare takes the money out of the doctor's pockets by lowering physician payments.

Every year since 2002 Medicare's expenses has exceeded their target. Since 2003, Congress has overridden the agency and increased fees by a small percentage each year. If congress didn't act, doctors would desert Medicare. The problem is every year's deficit gets rolled over to the next year, and the deficit gets compounded.

To gain doctor approval for Obamacare, congress is trying to permanently repeal the Medicare's methodology for figuring out doctor's fees. Its called the Doctor's fix. 

Democrats insist the doctors fix should be totally separate from the Obamacare legislation,  because they didn't want the CBO estimated $210 Billion dollar cost of the fix to the total  cost of the health bill. The GOP insists the cost of the fix should be part of the bill since it is being done as part of the entire Obamcare process. Keeping it out of the bill, Republicans say, is just another trick to make Obamacare look revenue neutral.

Today Max Baucus the Senior Democrat on the Senate Finance committee,  and Chuck Grassley the senior Republican announced they cut a deal on a Jobs bill, and included in it is the doctors fix, giving the Democrats another place to hide the real cost of Obamacare.

The joint announcement — by Chairman Max Baucus of Montana and the panel's top Republican, Chuck Grassley of Iowa — is aimed at giving the proposals some bipartisan heft in a Senate chamber mired in partisan gridlock on just about every other major issue. In fact, the release announcing the bill used the word "bipartisan" seven times in just a few paragraphs.

Baucus and Grassley said their package was a "first step" and urged Senate leadership to allow at least three days for lawmakers to review the bill. The Finance Committee did not attach a price tag to its bill.

"It is especially important that all members and the public have sufficient time — at least 72 hours — to review and comment on this package before the Senate begins voting on the bill because it has not gone through the regular committee process," the two senators wrote in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wanted to pass a jobs bill before Congress left for recess Friday. But two punishing blizzards made it difficult to schedule votes this week.

The Finance Committee agreement, however, may be the breakthrough the Reid needs if he wants a vote after next week's Presidents Day recess.

The bill includes an infusion of funds into the Highway Trust Fund, the so-called doc fix for Medicare reimbursements and an extension of unemployment insurance and other benefits for the jobless.

It also includes several provisions outside the panel's jurisdiction, like a reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, the national flood insurance program and $1.5 billion in agriculture disaster assistance.

Grassley and Baucus also fired a warning shot aimed at partisans on both sides who might want to add or subtract provisions that don't have bipartisan support.

"Any efforts to needlessly delay Senate completion of consideration of this package through partisan means will undermine our goal of timely action in the current economic climate," the senators wrote.
Putting aside for a moment that most of the "porkulus" bill has not been spent and that disaster should be allowed to run its course before we waste additional dollars, this supposed compromise just gives the Democrats additional ammunition to pass Obamacare over the objections of the American people. With his compromise, Senator Grassley has committed a disservice to the America.

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