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Panel May Trigger Lobbying Bonanza

Doctors, for example, are hoping lawmakers will include a permanent fix to their Medicare reimbursement rates. As it is now, doctors return to Congress year after year for their "doc fix" to prevent severe cuts to their Medicare reimbursement rates.

The joint committee process is an ideal venue to deal with a long-term doc fix "because you can't realistically address the national debt without solving the physician payment problem," said Rich Tarplin, a former Clinton administration official who runs Tarplin Strategies and represents the American Medical Association.

Several sources said they are already trying to devise a way to influence the panel, whose members have not yet been named.

Because of the truncated schedule Congress will have to vote on the committee's recommendations by Dec. 23 lobbyists expect areas that have been targeted in previous proposals from the "gang of six," the Biden group or the Simpson-Bowles commission to remain on the table.

"It's going to be a very intense effort here over the next few months," said Jack Howard, a Republican lobbyist with Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates who represents defense companies. "In many ways, it is going to blot out the sun between now and Thanksgiving."

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