House Delays Floor Vote on Amended Payroll Tax Break, ‘Doc Fix’ Measure
On Monday night, House Republicans night postponed a floor vote on an amended version of a House-approved bill (HR 3630) that would extend a payroll tax break and delay scheduled Medicare physician reimbursement cuts for two months, Politico reports (Allen/Kim, Politico, 12/19).
Last week, the House voted 234-193 to pass a GOP bill that would extend for one year a $1,000 payroll tax break that is set to expire at the end of this month and stave off a nearly 30% cut to Medicare physician payment rates that is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2012. Instead, the legislation would increase reimbursement rates by 1% over the next two years.
The Senate did not take up that legislation, but instead voted 89-10 on Saturday to approve a two-month version of the payroll tax break and Medicare "doc fix" measure. Senate leaders initially assumed that the two-month bill would pass easily in the House because it was endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and includes a provision related to a controversial oil pipeline that Republicans favor (California Healthline, 12/19).
House Lawmakers To Vote on Forming Conference Committee
Instead of House GOP members voting down the bill, the House Rules Committee on Monday adopted a rule allowing it to go to conference with the Senate on the payroll measure. House lawmakers on Tuesday will vote on whether to form a conference committee for the bill (Wasson et al., The Hill, 12/19). According to Politico, Republicans opted for the conference committee strategy in part because they did not want to explicitly vote against a tax cut (Politico, 12/19).
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, "Our members do not want to just punt and do a two-month, short-term fix where we have to come back and do this again," adding, "We're here. We're willing to work" (The Hill, 12/19).
Reid Will Not Reopen Talks on Payroll Tax
However, Senate members adjourned for recess after Saturday's vote and are not expected to return to the Capitol until January, according to Adam Jentleson, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (California Healthline, 12/19).
On Monday, Reid said Senate Democrats would not take part in conference committee negotiations until the House passes the short-term measure.
Reid said that he and McConnell "negotiated a compromise at Speaker Boehner's request," adding, "I will not reopen negotiations until the House follows through and passes this agreement that was negotiated by Republican leaders and supported by 90% of the Senate" (Pierce, Roll Call, 12/19).
CMS Prepares To Delay Payments
Meanwhile, CMS is preparing to instruct its claims administration contractors to delay Medicare reimbursements for 2012 services from Jan. 1 until Jan. 17, in the event lawmakers do not reach an agreement on the doc fix, Modern Healthcare reports (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 12/19).
CMS previously has held physician payments for a brief period while lawmakers finalized deals to delay rate cuts (California Healthline, 12/12).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.