Senate postpones Medicare cut until March 31
The lone holdout in the Senate gave up his filibuster late Tuesday night, allowing the passage of a stopgap emergency spending measure that freezes Medicare payment rates at 2009 levels through March 31. The president signed the bill immediately. After lawmakers were unable to agree on any bills to avert a 21 percent cut in Medicare physician fees during January and February, they included a one-month extension in an emergency spending bill that also extended jobless benefits, highway funding, and more. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., objected, initiating a filibuster that stalled the bill past the March 1 deadline.
To delay implementing the cut, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ordered carriers to hold payment for claims for 10 business days in hopes Congress would pass an extension, and late last night Bunning relented.
According to AAFP’s director of government relations, Kevin Burke, senators heard from “a large number of physicians, and that made a significant difference in their sense of urgency.” The Senate is working on another bill that would extend current payment rates until Oct. 1, 2010. Burke said it could be voted out of the Senate by early next week, and would likely be approved by the House.
Throughout this process, AAFP, TAFP, and the physicians they represent have stayed engaged, telling their elected officials about the importance of a permanent solution to the flawed Medicare payment formula. You can use AAFP’s Speak Out tool to make your voice heard in Washington, D.C. The message there should be updated soon to reflect recent action.