Senate votes to delay Medicare payment cut until Oct. 1
The U.S. Senate yesterday passed legislation that will delay the date of a 21.2 percent Medicare payment cut to physicians until Oct. 1.

This payment cut delay is part of a massive $140 billion bill that includes an extension of unemployment benefits, continued subsidization of premiums for the unemployed under COBRA and a variety of tax breaks. In addition, the legislation extends several other Medicare protections, including the exceptions process for Medicare beneficiaries who exceed their cap on therapy services and provisions affecting doctors and other healthcare providers who serve rural communities.

The bill also includes $25 million in new Medicaid funds to financially-strapped states and extends the funding that states have received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Senate passed the bill by a 62-36 margin after breaking a Republican-led filibuster on Tuesday. The bill must now go to House of Representatives.

James Rohack, MD, president of the American Medical Association, used the Senate vote to again call for a permanent reform of the Medicare payment formula.

The Senate’s action has “pushed the problem off into the near future,” Rohack said. “If the House adopts this Senate bill, America’s seniors and their physicians will be left in limbo, and access to healthcare for Medicare patients will continue to be in grave danger. Physicians cannot keep their practice doors open to all Medicare patients without clear direction from Congress on Medicare payment rates.

“Short-term actions are the wrong answer to a long-term problem,” said Rohack. “These Band-Aid fixes have only served to increase the size of the cuts and the cost of reform. The longer Congress delays, the higher the cost to the American taxpayer. It’s time to fix the formula and ensure that seniors can count on Medicare now and for years to come.”