The Senate on Wednesday approved a $3.1 trillion fiscal year 2009 budget resolution that includes substantial increases in funds for domestic programs and excludes reductions in funds for Medicare and Medicaid, which were proposed by President Bush. The resolution passed by a vote of 48 to 45.

Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday released an outline of legislation that would prevent a scheduled 10.6 percent cut to payments for physicians that provide services to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The cuts are scheduled to take effect July 1, 2008. The Republican plan competes with legislation introduced by Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, which is chaired by Max Baucus (D-Mont.). The Democrat version also calls for intervention regarding the proposed cuts.

Both bills call for an 18-month freeze on reductions to physician payments as well as the creation of electronic prescribing requirements, addition of quality reporting programs, and increases for payments to physicians in underserved areas. The notable difference between the two bills is that the Republican version calls for a 1.1 percent increase to physician payments while the Democrat version includes a 0.5 percent update. Sen. Baucus indicated he will introduce the Democrat version of the bill Monday; Sen. Grassley, the ranking Republican member of the committee, plans to introduce their version shortly after.

More information on both these issues will be included in upcoming editions of the Weekly Update.