Congress Passes Measure to Delay Medicare Physician Payment Cut

By a vote of 60 to 36, the US Senate has passed a measure that delays a 27.4% Medicare physician payment cut. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

Earlier today, the House passed the House-Senate conference report by a vote of 293 in favor and 132 against.

The Medicare payment cut, scheduled to take effect March 1, is delayed 10 months.

The conference report calls for job creation incentives and cuts to federal employee salaries and benefits.

The $20 billion Medicare payment fix will be offset by cuts in other areas of the federal health care budget.

The House and Senate forged an agreement on the report on Feb. 14. Deliberations on the report began in late January.

An original House version of the bill that passed Dec. 13 called for a 2-year delay of the Medicare payment cut and extension of the payroll tax cut. On Dec. 17, the Senate passed a bipartisan compromise measure that called for a 2-month extension of the payroll tax cut and current Medicare physician payment rate. The House rejected the measure and voted to send the bill to conference on Dec. 20. House Republican leadership changed course Dec. 23, endorsing the 2-month extension and allowing more time for debate.

The physician payment cut results in part from the sustainable growth rate (SGR), a key factor in annual Medicare payment updates. The American Medical Association and various other medical societies have called for the SGR to be amended or repealed.

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