Fixing the Doc Fix…

"Oh, why-o, why-o, did I ever leave Ohio?" Boehner's doc fix headache

“Oh, why-o, why-o, did I ever leave Ohio?” Boehner’s doc fix headache

Good Morning, ProviderNation.

Long term and post-acute care advocates are racing to the phone banks to let Congress know a few things that’s on their minds about the doc fix.

Talked with some of my favorite Lobbying-Americans this morning and, oh, what a tale they tell:

You know already that Congress has come up with a preliminary, five-year plan that would give the docs extra money but hasn’t yet figured out how to pay for it. The current legislation covering the doc fix expires March 31, so, there has been just a wee bit of urgency about it.

But in recent weeks, that timeline has come into conflict with another one—viz., the expiration of the debt ceiling on Feb. 27. The last time the debt ceiling was on people’s minds, the government, um, crashed.

Many Congressional Republicans feel they were scorched by the last confrontation and aren’t remotely interested in seeing that movie again. So, over the weekend, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, floated a proposal that would raise the debt ceiling and pay for it (in part) by extending the cuts of the far-famed sequestration for another year.

As an additional set of sweeteners, Boehner’s proposal would have “patched” the doc fix for another nine months and also reworked some military pensions.

Even though they weren’t thrilled with the extension of the sequestration cuts, long term care advocates were enthusiastic about the patch, because it would give Congress plenty of time to think carefully about who pays for what. (Indeed, nine months puts the decision beyond this year’s elections, which means there’s less chance of the matter being seized by nervous incumbents.)

But then the docs got word. And, after a frank exchange of views, Boehner agreed to rethink things.

So now legislation, which must be passed by Wednesday, would extend the sequestration, raise the debt ceiling, but leave the original doc fix proposal as-is, meaning long term and post-acute care providers get both an extension of cuts and the pleasure of worrying about whether they’ll have to cover the $150 billion (or so) for the permanent doc fix.

Needless to say, advocates are going to have their own chats with Congress-folk today, hoping they can turn things around.

Bill Myers is senior editor of Provider.

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