Medicare Doctor Fee ‘Fix’ Faces Uncertain Future in House

Legislation that would prevent a 24 percent cut in payments from the federal government to reimburse doctors who accept Medicare patients faced an uncertain future early Thursday as House GOP leaders struggled to find the votes to pass the bill.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had said that the House would vote on the measure Thursday after announcing that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had agreed on the one-year “patch” legislation, known as a “doc fix,” financed by a variety of familiar cuts to health care providers. They include cuts to hospitals that treat a “disproportionate share” of uninsured patients and extending a 2 percent cut to Medicare providers under automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

The deadline to prevent the reimbursement cuts is 11:59 p.m. Monday. When Congress has blown the deadline in the past, Medicare has dealt with the problem by simply delaying processing payments until the formula had been raised.

The bill’s prospects are complicated by the House leadership’s wish to consider the bill “on suspension,” which would mean that the bill would require a two-thirds majority to pass, with the help of some Democratic votes. However, some lawmakers in both parties are advocating a permanent fix to the problem.