Clock runs out on doc fix

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says doctors should hold on to their claims for the first 10 business days in June--just in case Congress returns from Memorial Day recess ready to pass some sort of legislation to halt the 21.3 percent cut to physician payments still slated for June 1. Facing staunch opposition to deficit spending the move would require, Democratic leaders who have tried to avert the massive Medicare pay cut say they simply have run out of time to get the votes, reports Medscape Today.

Under the most recent, scaled-back proposal, House Democrats were hoping to postpone the pay cut until January 1, 2012, and increase Medicare rates 2.2 percent for the rest of the year and 1 percent in 2011. At last count, the complete American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, which would have extended unemployment benefits and updated a number of tax breaks in addition to the 'doc fix,' would have cost $127 billion in total spending, raised $43 billion in new revenue, and increased the federal deficit by $84 billion. The doc fix accounted for $23 billion of the cost--down $40 billion from before.

Late Thursday night, House Democrats announced that they would split legislation into two bills--one for the doc fix, and the other for everything else--and vote on them separately Friday, according to Medscape. However, Senate Democrats, again making a tough case for deficit spending, later said that even though they would meet again on Friday, they would not vote on any House bill until they reconvened on June 7.

At the same time, The Hill reports that Democrats will offer a 14-day extension of unemployment insurance, COBRA, the doc fix and the national flood insurance program--but that Republicans will likely counter the proposed $4 billion in deficit spending with a short-term extension that would be paid for by funds from the economic stimulus program, which Democrats believe should be devoted to job creation.

To learn more:
- get the background from the Associated Press
- see this piece in McKnight's Long-Term Care News
- read this article on The Hill
- see this update on Medscape Today (reg. required)