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Medicare "Doc Fix" Attached To Senate Jobs Bill

February 10, 2010 - by Eric Naing

As part of the Senate jobs bill, Democrats hope to delay an impending 21 percent cut in Medicare dollars for doctors for at least a few more months.

Because of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, the amount of Medicare dollars paid to doctors is automatically cut when that cost outpaces inflation. Though these cuts have been repeatedly triggered since 2003, Congress has managed each time to delay them to a future date.

Congressional Democrats last year, under pressure from groups such as the American Medical Association, attempted to permanently undo the Medicare formula – a fix that the CBO estimated would cost up to $210 billion over 10 years.

In October, every Republican and 12 Democrats managed to defeat a bill (S.1776) accomplishing that in the Senate. The following month, House Democrats managed to pass a permanent Medicare fix (H.R.3961). Congress, however, did pass a two-month delay in the Medicare cuts as part of a defense spending bill (H.R.3326).

That deadline, March 1, is now in sight so Democrats are once again working out a fix. To the chagrin of the AMA, the permanent fix has been dropped in favor of another temporary delay, which will be attached to the Senate jobs bill.

Senate Democrats were supposed to introduce their jobs bill this week but the historic snowfall blanketing Washington, D.C. has forced Congress to shut down. The March 1 deadline for the Medicare cuts puts added pressure on Democrats to pass the bill – an increasingly difficult task now that at least one Republican vote will be needed.

But even if the Senate jobs bill passes, this issue is far from dead as the Medicare cuts would only be delayed until Sept. 30.

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