US Democrats eye Medicare cuts in tax, jobs bill

By Andy Sullivan and Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON, May 26 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. Congressional Democrats
on Wednesday considered tweaks to a package of spending and tax
hikes in order to ensure that it is passed before some programs
expire next week.

With many lawmakers balking at the package’s $134 billion
cost, Democratic leaders considered scaling back a provision
that would prevent drastic pay cuts for doctors who see
patients in the Medicare health-insurance program, according to
congressional staffers and lobbyists.

The current bill postpones any cuts for three and a half
years, adding $63 billion to the budget deficit. Scaling back
that time frame to two years would bring down the total cost
and ensure that it has enough support to pass the Senate, a
Democratic aide said.

A flaw in Medicare’s payment system pays doctors at
outdated rates, which would amount to a 21 percent pay cut,
unless Congress patches it with a periodic payment update.

Some medical groups said they could live with the shorter
time frame.

“If that is all we can get right now, we’ll take it,” said
John Crosby, said executive director of the American
Osteopathic Association.

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives were
rounding up support for the bill, with a vote possible later on
Wednesday.

In the U.S. Senate, Democratic Leader Harry Reid has
threatened to keep the chamber in session through the weekend
to get the bill passed before June, when unemployment benefits
and other safety-net provisions expire.

Reid on Wednesday said there would be enough votes to get
the bill through the Senate once it passes the House.

The bill also includes construction incentives and other
job-creation measures, along with a politically popular package
of tax breaks such as a credit for research and development
costs that expired at the end of last year.

One of the most controversial aspects of the bill would
increase taxes on fund managers in private equity and other
firms from the current 15 percent to at least 35 percent. The
legislation also tightens tax rules for multinational companies
and oil companies in particular.

Financial interests are lobbying heavily to kill that part
of the bill, which would raise about $20 billion over a decade.
Labor unions, concerned about the 9.9 percent unemployment
rate, are pressing for its passage.

The bill’s $174 billion in new spending is offset by $40
billion in new taxes, according to the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office.

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(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro)

US Democrats eye Medicare cuts in tax, jobs bill