Leaders expect House passage of bill helping Medicare docs

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON (AP) — House leaders predicted Tuesday that their chamber will approve a bipartisan compromise this week preventing deep cuts in physicians' Medicare fees and extending health care funds for children and low-income people.

After weeks of private talks between House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, top Republicans and Democrats released final details of their agreement on Tuesday. Though they released no figures, the package is expected to have a 10-year price tag of around $210 billion, with two-thirds of it financed by adding to federal deficits.

Boehner, R-Ohio, said one major accomplishment is the measure's increase in medical premiums paid by high-income Medicare recipients. That marks a rare though modest bipartisan agreement to retool the costly health insurance program for the elderly, which is an important selling point to conservatives usually opposed to boosting federal red ink.

Pelosi, D-Calif., said the measure would get "a strong vote" from Democrats. She said she was glad the package would provide two more years of extra money for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program.

The measure's fate is less certain in the Senate, where some Democrats have criticized the measure's added costs for Medicare beneficiaries and curbs on abortions at the nation's community health centers for low-income Americans.

Pelosi has said the abortion language merely extends restrictions that have existed for over three decades and have been renewed annually by Congress. Some Democrats say they think the measure would put those curbs into permanent law.

The package won the endorsement Tuesday of leading abortion-rights Democrats in the House. But Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said she opposed the agreement because "it leaves women's health out completely and extends barriers to abortion coverage."