HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, June 27, 2008

Medicare Delayed

The New York Times reported yesterday on the delay in the Senate's consideration of the Medicare Bill which would have blocked the 10 percent automatic cut in Medicare payments to physicians scheduled to begin in July.  Now, those cuts are back, and Robert Pear reports, no one is terribly happy about it.  He writes,

Doctors face a 10 percent cut in Medicare payments next week, following the Senate’s failure on Thursday to take up legislation that would have averted the cuts. Republican senators blocked efforts by Democrats to call up the bill, which was approved Tuesday in the House by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 355 to 59. In the Senate, supporters fell two votes short of the 60 needed to close debate. The vote was 58 to 40.


Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said, “We have to pass this bill to avoid catastrophic cuts to doctors.”  Dr. Nancy H. Nielsen, president of the American Medical Association, said the cuts would force many doctors to “limit the number of new Medicare patients they treat.”   The bill would cancel the 10 percent cut scheduled to occur on Tuesday and would increase Medicare payments to doctors by 1.1 percent in January.

President Bush had threatened to veto the bill, in part because it would reduce federal payments to private Medicare Advantage plans, offered by insurers like Humana, UnitedHealth and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. The 10 percent cut occurs automatically because of a statutory formula that reduces Medicare payments to doctors when spending would otherwise exceed certain goals.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said: “We offered to negotiate. We offered to extend current law.” But, Mr. McConnell said, Democrats refused.  Lawmakers are leaving town this week for the Fourth of July holiday. When they return, they could increase doctors’ payments retroactively. But there is no guarantee.  The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said: “Senate Republicans are playing a dangerous game of chicken. The only losers will be Medicare patients, old people.” . . .

Here is the earlier NYT article discussing the House passage of the Bill earlier this week.

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