House Approves Stand-Alone ‘Doc Fix’; GOP Blocks ‘Extenders’ Bill
On Thursday, the House on Thursday voted 417-1 to pass a Senate-approved stand-alone measure (HR 3962) that would postpone for six months a scheduled 21% cut to physicians' Medicare reimbursements, the New York Times reports.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) cast the only vote against the bill (Herszenhorn, New York Times, 6/25).
President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law (Epstein/Weyl, CQ Today, 6/24).
Filibuster Blocks Extenders Bill
Earlier in the day, Senate Democrats failed to overcome a GOP-led filibuster against a procedural motion to end debate on the "extenders" bill (HR 4213).
In the 57-41 vote, Republicans unanimously rejected the bill -- which included a newly revised state Medicaid assistance package -- citing concerns with its cost and lack of offsets. Democrats needed 60 votes to advance the bill to the Senate floor (McCarthy, CongressDaily, 6/25).
The Senate was voting for cloture on a new substitute amendment that Senate Democrats unveiled on Wednesday, in an attempt to secure the votes of several moderate senators whose main concerns revolved around the total cost and deficit projections of the extenders bill.
Democrats revised a provision that would have extended federal state Medicaid aid through June 2011 at the cost of nearly $24 billion. By gradually reducing the federal Medicaid assistance percentage from 3.2% in the first three months of 2011 to 1.2% from April to June, Democrats said the "phase down" approach would cut about $8 billion over 10 years from bill's total cost (California Healthline, 6/24).
House Leaders Concede on Stand-Alone 'Doc Fix,' Criticize Senate
House Democratic leaders on Thursday expressed anger and disappointment over being forced to approve the Senate's six-month doc fix compromise, according to CongressDaily.
House Democrats were seeking a longer-term fix for the payment cuts, such as the 19-month proposal included in the extenders bill the House approved on May 28.
Prior to Thursday's vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that House members had no alternative but to approve the Senate's doc fix compromise because the extenders bill had stalled in the chamber (CongressDaily, 6/25).
On June 17, the $6.5 billion, six-month stand-alone doc fix emerged as a compromise between Senate Democrats and Republicans after Democrats failed to overcome a GOP-led filibuster similar to the one on Thursday. The measure would provide a 2.2% payment increase to Medicare physicians through November and be fully offset with two revenue-raising provisions (California Healthline, 6/22).
During a debate before the Thursday's vote, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said, "This is a flawed bill that we're now considering, but we're forced to consider it because of the Republican filibuster in the Senate."
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) added, "After all is said and done, no one can say this is a great bill. It's an embarrassment, it's a disappointment. But it has come to this" (CongressDaily, 6/25).
CMS Expected To Swiftly Process Payment Claims Retroactively
CQ Today reports that House approval and enactment of the Senate's doc fix compromise would reverse the 21% payment cut that took effect last Friday and affected all Medicare claims dated June 1 and later. In a memo sent to congressional leaders last week, CMS said that it "is prepared to act expeditiously" to process retroactive payment claims when the measure becomes law (CQ Today, 6/24).
Reid To Abandon Extenders Bill, Declines To Comment on Future
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said after Thursday's failed cloture vote that he would pull the extenders bill from the chamber's floor, CQ Today reports. Reid said the legislative process "has been abused," and Senate Democrats "have done everything that we could" to advance the legislation (Schatz/Rubin, CQ Today, 6/24).
Reid declined to answer reporters' questions about the future prospects of the extenders bill, adding that the questions should be directed to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Republicans (Drucker, Roll Call, 6/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.