On Medicare Cut, Senate Kicks the Can Again
Yesterday the Senate passed another bill to postpone the mandated 21% reduction in Medicare reimbursement to physicians. The $140-million bill, passed by majority Democrats,* delays the draconian Medicare cut to October 1st and also extends unemployment benefits, COBRA subsidies, and state funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Dissenting Republican Senators, like Jeff Sessions (AL), argue that the bill adds $100 billion to the federal deficit. The bill will now be passed on to the House for a vote.
Most recently, Republican Senator Jim Bunning (KY) stalled a bandaid bill that delayed the SGR-defined cut in Medicare reimbursement to April 1st. On March 3rd, Bunning finally relented on a vote, and the bill was immediately signed into law.
According to Medscape, this is the third time in 4 months that Congress has acted to delay the cut in the Medicare reimbursement rate. The repeated passage of stop-gap bills has been characterized by critics as “kicking the can down the road.” It is hoped that the latest bill, if enacted, will allow Congress enough time to create a permanent fix to the perpetually looming drop in Medicare reimbursement.
COBRA = Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act; SGR = sustainable growth rate.
* In a 62-to-36 vote.
Photo of weathered can from magannie at Flickr.
Addendum: Over at MedPage Today, a poll (“How would a delay in SGR cuts without higher reimbursement rates affect your Medicare practice?”) reveals that about about a third of physician respondents would continue to accept new Medicare patients, a third would refuse to accept new Medicare patients, and the remaining are not sure.