Senate passes Medicare fix after deadline; House goes on break before taking action

The Senate unanimously passed legislation to block, for six months, the 21.3 percent pay cut to Medicare physicians. The measure will now need to be approved by the House of Representatives, which approved a similar measure--but for a longer period of time--in May.

However, because the House currently is on vacation, Medicare announced it would begin processing claims it has already received for June at the lower rate moments after the Senate's actions, the Associated Press reported.

If approved by the House, the Senate's patch would be retroactive to June 1, according to American Medical News; claims processed at the lower rate would need to be reprocessed--which would be done automatically. The six-month patch emerged after the Senate failed to pass larger tax extender legislation that also included the Medicare provision, CMIO reports.

The Senate bill created a six-month freeze of a 21.3 percent cut to physicians' payments from Medicare. But as they were casting the vote, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services resumed processing payments--with the reduction--after an 18-day hold. June 18 was the last day Medicare could hold claims, and it was 17 days past the Senate's deadline to stop the cut, CMIO reports.

Even if it's enacted, lawmakers would need to revisit the issue during the post-November election lame-duck Congress; it's often difficult to move legislation during such sessions, however, American Medical News reports.

AARP calls the cut "unprecedented," according to the Associated Press. Nancy LeaMond, the group's executive vice president, emphasized that the cut--although temporary--"creates a dangerous atmosphere for seniors and their doctors, and will contribute to more doctors making the decision already made by some physicians to stop taking Medicare patients."

For more information:
- check out this Associated Press piece
- read this American Medical News article
- read this CMIO piece
- read this DOTmed News article

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