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Senate OKs doc-pay extension


By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: December 8, 2010 - 9:00 pm ET
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By unanimous consent, the Senate passed legislation that averts a 25% Medicare payment cut to physicians that was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2011.

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To pay for the legislation, the bill suggests a change in policy regarding overpayments of the healthcare affordability tax credit. Currently, the law places a cap of $250 for individuals and $400 for families on the amount of the healthcare affordability tax credit people are required to pay back when they receive an overpayment. Under the new proposal, the cap on the payback amount would be based on a sliding scale relative to the income of the recipient, according to a summary of the bill from the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill was introduced Tuesday by Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senate Finance Committee Chairmen Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

"I'm encouraged that we were able to work together in a bipartisan way and protect access to care for America's 45 million Medicare beneficiaries in a fiscally responsible manner," McConnell said in a news release. "... I'm pleased that the White House is supportive and I hope our colleagues in the House will take up this measure and pass it promptly."

Physicians applauded the Senate's action, and also urged the House of Representatives to pass similar legislation quickly before the Jan. 1 deadline.

“The AMA congratulates the Senate for its bipartisan action to preserve seniors' access to care by stopping next year's steep 25% Medicare physician payment cut," the American Medical Association said in a statement. "Stopping the cut for one year will inject some much needed stability into the system for seniors and physician practices who have spent this year in limbo because of five short-term delays."

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