Reform bill includes greater authority for MedPAC

As the health reform bill passes through Senate Finance markup, it seems that the proposal to turn MedPAC into a permanent commission with far more power is surviving the process. Republicans haven't been thrilled with the idea of its remaining in place indefinitely, and House lawmakers haven't been that supportive of MedPAC becoming a rulemaking body, but the idea seems to have traction among Senators, according to CQ HealthBeat.

President Obama has backed the idea of turning MedPAC, now an advice-giving body whose recommendations on Medicare may be followed or ignored, into an agency whose conclusions become policy unless overturned by Congress. Now, as the bill proceeds through the Finance Committee, it seems Obama may not only get his commission, but one that's permanent, rather than expiring in 2019, as once envisioned.

The Finance committee's proposal for the new, supercharged MedPAC would require it to put policies in place that cut Medicare cost growth by at least 1.5 percent each year, starting in 2014. If the new agency didn't do that, HHS would have the authority to pull back money from providers to make up the rest of the needed decrease.

To learn more about the MedPAC debate:
- read this Kaiser Health News piece

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