Medicare Cuts Get Last-Minute Reprieve

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Many Medicare patients breathed a sigh of relief Friday as President Obama signed a $6.4 billion bill into law that would postpone a 21% cut in Medicare reimbursements through November.

The cut in reimbursements would have forced some doctors to stop accepting Medicare patients.

The bill, originally part of the larger jobs bill that has stalled in the Senate, was passed after Medicare officials announced they would begin processing June payments at a lower reimbursement rate. The new standalone legislation allows for reimbursement at a higher rate for any claims already processed in June. Doctors will not need to resubmit their claims to get the full reimbursement. It also provides a 2.2% increase to all payments through Nov. 30.

The Senate approved the legislation on June 18, but the House delayed voting on the “doc fix” in hopes that the Senate would pass the larger bill, which  has been filibustered by Republicans over cost concerns for the third time in two weeks. The House passed the temporary solution Thursday in a vote of 417 to 1. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) was the only representative to vote against the bill.

Obama said in a statement issued by the White House that he was "pleased that Congress has acted to ensure the security of our seniors’ health care. A 21% pay cut to physicians’ payments would have forced some doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients, an outcome we can all agree is unacceptable."

However, he also pointed out that a more permanent solution to the Medicare problem was necessary.

"Kicking these cuts down the road just isn't an adequate solution to the problem. The current system of recurring cuts and temporary fixes was passed into law more than 10 years ago. It's untenable,” Obama said.

The cuts are called for under older Medicare legislation that requires reimbursement payments be decreased on a yearly basis. Congress has postponed these cuts nine times since 2003. If the new postponement expires in November, reimbursements would be cut by 23% in December and to nearly 30% in January.

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