Congress Delays Cuts to Medicare Doctors

Congress passed legislation to temporarily stave off looming cuts to doctors who treat Medicare patients, hours before the current government pay structure was to expire.

The Senate on Monday evening approved the $21 billion bill 64-35, four days after House leaders reached a last-minute compromise and passed the measure on a voice vote. Sixty votes were needed for the measure to pass.

President Obama was expected to sign the measure immediately.

“For the millions of elderly Americans and their doctors this fix is good news,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “It means the promise of accessible, quality health care to our nation’s seniors is being honored for another year.”

The so-called “doc fix” was the 17th time Congress has enacted a short-term extension, or “patch,” to keep a 1997 budget-cutting law from biting too deeply into federal reimbursement payments for physicians who treat Medicare patients. If Congress hadn’t acted, Medicare doctors would have seen their payments reduced by about 24 percent beginning Tuesday.