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Lobbyists push to amend $200B Medicare deal

By Juliegrace Brufke

WASHINGTON , April 7 (UPI) -- The $200 billion Medicare deal, which easily passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate, is being threatened by lobbyists pushing to amend the package that would permanently prevent cuts to physician payments.

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi teamed up on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. It would nullify Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR), the method used to compensate physicians enrolled in Medicare, and replace it with a system that would gradually increase doctors' compensation, a move the Congressional Budget Office predicts will add $141 billion to the deficit.

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Advocacy groups including the AARP and the First Focus Campaign for Children have expressed concern over the legislation.

AARP released a statement saying it worried that Medicare beneficiaries would be forced to pay higher out-of-pocket costs, face increased premiums and have reduced coverage options.

Ed Walz, the vice president of communications for First Focus Campaign for Children, told The Hill he is hoping to get the language changed from two to four years in terms of funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

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"We've had interesting -- and interested -- conversations about a very real possibility of an amendment," Walz told the publication.

After the Senate returns from recess Monday, it will have two days to pass the legislation. If it is amended it will be sent back to the House.

The White House has said if the bill reaches President Obama's desk, he will sign it into law.

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