House committee closer to compromise, senators tentatively agree to cut Medicare

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Representatives appear to be inching closer to a compromise on healthcare reform. That comes as a group of senators consider reducing Medicare spending to trim the cost of a reform package.

House Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) on Wednesday reportedly had reached an accord with the conservative Blue Dog Democrats on his committee. In exchange for delaying a full House vote on the reform bill until after the August recess, Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR), leader of the Energy and Commerce Blue Dogs, agreed to continue debate in the committee, The Hill newspaper reported. Negotiations were set to resume Wednesday evening, according to reports. The Blue Dogs have been accused of holding up passage of the bill in the committee.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators tentatively agreed earlier this week to authorize an independent commission that would be required to recommend $35 billion in savings from Medicare over a decade. The president has voiced support for an Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC) that would be a part of the executive branch and would be authorized to make decisions regarding Medicare market-basket increases. Currently, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) makes recommendations to Congress on Medicare payment updates. Medicare pays for part of nursing home care.

Separately, an aide to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, commented Wednesday that the committee has not reached an agreement on a healthcare reform bill.