The Senate Finance Committee approved amendments to a proposal within its health system reform bill that would create a new Medicare commission to rein in the program’s spending growth. The commission would be permanent, rather than a temporary entity that would dissolve in 2019 as was initially proposed.

As amended, the bill would create a commission with 15 members with health care backgrounds, who would be appointed by the President and serve six-year, staggered terms. The commission would be required to implement policies starting in 2014 aimed at cutting the Medicare spending growth rate by at least 1.5% annually. If that goal is not met, the proposal would authorize the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to implement a cumulative reduction in Medicare payments to make up the difference. The proposal would give Congress 30 days to review the cost-cutting plan, but would require a two-thirds majority to override it.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that such a commission could reduce Medicare spending growth by $23 billion from 2015 to 2019.