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Budget chief: Docs fees not paid for in Obama bill

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President Barack Obama’s pledge to make sure health care legislation is fully paid for excludes $245 billion to raise fees for doctors treating Medicare patients, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

Peter Orszag, the budget director, said the administration always had assumed the money would be spent to prevent a cut of more than 20 percent in doctor fees that is scheduled to take effect.

The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that the addition of money for doctors would cause the health care bill to produce deficits totaling $239 billion over the next decade.

A few hours earlier Friday, Obama had said at the White House, “I’ve said that health insurance reform cannot add to our deficit over the next decade. And I mean it.”

Orszag’s statement put him in agreement with House Democratic leaders, who have also pledged a deficit-neutral health care bill, but who exclude the physician fees from that commitment.

The House Republican leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, said, “This is yet another broken promise from a White House that pledged it wouldn’t support health care legislation that adds to our deficit.”

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who is presiding over talks aimed at a bipartisan agreement on health care, said the issue has not yet come up in the talks.

The decision by Democrats and the White House to include the money in the legislation was key to gaining the support of the American Medical Association, which represents doctors.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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