Medicare Payment Fix for Doctors Comes Up Again in U.S. Senate
On Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said that a House-passed bill (HR 6331) that would delay a 10.6% reduction to Medicare physician fees might have enough votes in the Senate to gain cloture, even though it failed by one vote on June 26, CongressDaily reports.
The cut was scheduled to take effect last week (Edney, CongressDaily, 7/7).
The House passed the measure by a veto-proof margin last month. The bill is similar to a measure (S 3101) proposed by Baucus, which also failed to receive enough votes for cloture (California Healthline, 7/7).
CMS provided Congress with more time to act on blocking the fee reduction, freezing rates until July 15 through an administrative measure, according to CQ Today.
However, Jeff Nelligan, a spokesperson for the agency, on Monday said there would be no further extensions (Armstrong, CQ Today, 7/7).
A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that the Senate will again vote to invoke cloture on the measure as early as Wednesday (CongressDaily, 7/7).
The vote "will come after a recess week when outside lobbying groups, specifically physicians' associations, have tried putting pressure on GOP senators who voted against the House bill in an effort to flip at least one of them," according to CQ Today. However, "there's no firm evidence yet that any Republicans intend to actually switch sides," CQ Today reports.
In the event the measure gains 60 votes for cloture, it still faces a veto from President Bush, which would take 67 votes to override.
Baucus said, "We have a decent chance of getting cloture," adding, "I can't guarantee it, but it's close" (CQ Today, 7/7). Baucus also rejected a proposal from some Republicans to extend the current physician pay rate for 31 days, saying it would be too confusing (CongressDaily, 7/7).
Republicans offered an extension so that Baucus and Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) could finish negotiations on a compromise bill.
"Frankly, we did not have an agreement," Baucus said, adding, "The overwhelming House vote ... changed the dynamics considerably, and I felt, and many others felt, it was best to bring up the House-passed bill" (CQ Today, 7/7).
Baucus said that if the Senate passed the measure with a wide enough margin, the Bush administration might back down from its veto threat (CongressDaily, 7/7).