Debt Commission Falters In Vote

Jeff Elliott for HealthLeaders Media, December 8, 2010

To the relief of many in the healthcare industry, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform's draft proposal with recommendations to eliminate $200.3 billion in spending and trim the federal deficit by $4 trillion did not survive last week's vote by the bi-partisan commission's members. With a final count of 11-7, it failed to reach the 14 "yes" votes required to put the draft before Congress.

The proposal, delivered by commission co-chairs Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, chief of staff to President Clinton called for physician pay cuts that would trim Medicare spending by $10 billion between 2013 and 2015 and an additional $14 billion by 2020, a prospect that left many in the industry befuddled.

"It appeared they were not taking into consideration the bill that Congress passed last spring on healthcare reform that will reduce hospital payments by $155 billion over the next 10 years," said Tom Nickels, senior vice president of federal relations for the American Hospital Association. "We juxtapose this to the commission led by [former Senator Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin] that did not make those reductions to healthcare programs for that very reason."

In addition to physician pay cuts, other proposals that were floated to help offset those costs include directing CMS to establish a new payment system beginning in 2015 and the expansion of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, still an area of major industry criticism, and an area in which providers appear to have Congressional support.

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