Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont, says he intends to begin negotiating with the House on Medicare legislation despite a veto threat from the Bush administration.
“Finance Committee negotiations on a Medicare bill have been very productive, and there’s now a good basis for negotiation with the House,” Baucus said Wednesday in a statement. “It’s important to move as quickly as possible toward a final Medicare bill before the end of this year.”
Baucus’s office reports that Baucus has withdrawn a formal request for a Finance Committee Medicare Advantage markup session.
Markup sessions give committee members a chance to amend and vote on a bill.
“I would still like to have a markup next week, but I’m not going to guarantee there will be one,” Baucus said. “With every passing day, it’s a little less likely.”
If members of the Finance Committee cannot draft a compromise bill quickly, any Medicare Advantage provisions may have to go into an omnibus spending bill, Baucus said.
Michael Leavitt, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the parent of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, describes the Medicare Advantage bill provisions that could trigger a veto in a letter sent Tuesday to Baucus and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the most senior Republican on the Finance Committee.
President Bush cannot sign any Medicare Advantage bill that “results in the loss of access to [health care] services, benefits, or choices in the Medicare Advantage program,” Leavitt writes in the letter.
If lawmakers want to maintain physician pay, they should do so by “responsibly adjusting payments to other providers” who are reimbursed under traditional Medicare, Leavitt writes.
Bush also cannot sign a bill that includes any provision that “disturbs, undermines, or overturns the many successes of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit” or “undermines efforts to promote fiscal solvency in the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” Leavitt writes.