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Senators introduce plan to extend doc fix through 2011


By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: December 7, 2010 - 8:45 pm ET
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The Senate majority and minority leaders and the chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee introduced legislation that would extend a fix to the Medicare physician payment formula through 2011.

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Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Finance Committee Co-Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010, which would avert the scheduled 25% Medicare payment cut to physicians scheduled for Jan. 1, 2011. A provision in the bill would reverse that reduction and extend the current Medicare payment rates through Dec. 31, 2011. The estimated cost of the provision is $14.9 billion over 10 years.

The bill also includes extensions of other healthcare provisions, such as ambulance add-ons, which would extend the increased Medicare rates for ambulance services—including those in very rural areas—through Dec. 31, 2011. Another provision would extend transitional medical assistance, which would allow low-income families to maintain their Medicaid coverage as they transition back into employment.

According to a summary, the legislation would be paid for by changing the policy regarding overpayments of the healthcare affordability tax credit. While the policy would not change the tax credits for which people are eligible based on their income, it would change the way people pay back overpayments when they have received more credit than they are eligible to receive. An example of this would be when people earn more money than expected in a given year.

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