House Democratic leaders will meet Wednesday evening with White House officials and lobbyists for doctors groups to discuss how to deal with the thorny issue of Medicare reimbursement for physicians.The House has proposed dealing with the Medicare physician payments, or the doc fix, in the tax extenders legislation that the chamber may take up shortly. Unless Congress acts by June 1, physicians will see a 21.3 percent cut in their Medicare payments.American Medical Association officials as well as lobbyists from doctors groups were summoned to a meeting in Speaker Nancy Pelosis office at 5 p.m. Wednesday. In an e-mail from Wendell Primus, the California Democrats senior policy adviser on budget and health issues, the participants were told they would receive an update on SGR. The SGR is the sustainable growth rate formula to which doctors Medicare payments are tied.White House officials, including Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the Office of Health Reform, also received the e-mail. Todd Askew of the AMA and Shawn Martin of the American Osteopathic Association were also among the invitees.Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said the meeting is to simply update them on where we are. He said it will involve both doctors and elderly groups.House leaders have discussed a provision that would avert the cut for five years. But the AMA, the nations largest physician group, has opposed the temporary fix to the reimbursement problem and is advocating a permanent solution.The AMA cannot support a proposal that would result in steeper future payment cuts and a substantially higher cost for a permanent solution, making it more difficult, if not impossible to repeal the Medicare physician payment formula, J. James Rohack, the president of the AMA, said in a statement.However, a long-term solution, which would be more expensive, is meeting resistance from more fiscally conservative Democrats, particularly in the Senate. They want the cost of paying for the doc fix to be offset by other budget reductions.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.