An aide to Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that while the chairman supports a permanent physician payment fix, “obviously the votes are not there for that at this time.” “He’s working to get the longest possible extension that can pass at this time,” said the aide, who added that any extension will need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
Health care observers said any temporary fix will likely be tacked on to larger legislation, such as a budget or tax measure, rather than go as a stand-alone bill.
The AMA is one of the top spending advocacy groups in Washington, shelling out $17 million in lobbying expenses in the first three quarters of this year.
Even though the medical association wields considerable clout, it has faced criticism from GOP lawmakers. Some Republicans have questioned why the AMA didn’t hold out its support of the health care bill until it got a deal on its doc fix.
A better reception next year is uncertain, as the new Congress will have more Members who are critical of the health care law and are opposed to passing measures that will increase the deficit. The freshman class includes doctors who have been critical of the health care law, including Sen.-elect Rand Paul (Ky.), a tea-party-backed Republican and an ophthalmologist.
The AMA may also have to do some making up with Republicans who will be running the House in the next Congress. In the most recent election cycle, AMA’s political action committee gave the maximum $10,000 in contributions to Democratic House leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
By contrast, the medical association PAC gave $5,000 to GOPers including Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), the chairman of the House Republican Conference.