Senate Democrats just leaked a draft of their new stimulus package, formally called the “Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act.”
As the Hill reports:
The 362-page draft bill touches on a vast array of areas, including extensions for unemployment benefits and COBRA health insurance premiums, tax incentives designed to spur hiring, spending programs on transportation initiatives, low-income housing credits, energy programs, disaster relief, extensions of Medicare payment programs, and tax proposal aiming to raise revenue from foreign-held assets and trusts.
Specifically, on page 107, the program delays a scheduled reduction in doctors’ payments under Medicare — even though the Congressional Budget Office assumed that those cuts would actually happen as part of its analysis of the Senate health care bill that passed in December.
By way of background, back in the 1990s, Congress attempted to slow the growth of Medicare costs by limiting the rate of growth of doctors payments, but Congress has consistently voted to avoid those scheduled cuts. Democrats couldn’t pass a 10-year, $250 billion bill to “fix” the problem last fall, so in December they threw a temporary measure into the must-pass Defense appropriations bill that delayed the cuts until March 1.
The draft of the new stimulus package (which Democrats are trying to rebrand as a “jobs bill”), would delay the cuts yet again until October 1, which is the start of the 2011 fiscal year.
However, in its analysis of the Senate health care bill, the CBO assumed that “the 21 percent reduction in (physician) payment rates that is scheduled to occur in 2010 under current law would take effect.”
Ultimately, the move underscores why many of us have been skeptical of the deficit reduction claims Democrats have been making about their health care bills, given that they are contingent on future Congresses cutting Medicare. As the CBO cautioned in each of its reports on those bills, its “calculations assume that the provisions are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next two decades, which is often not the case for major legislation.”
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