Healthcare Business News
Rep. Joe Heck

Doc lawmakers reject fiscal-cliff bill—but a few cross party lines

By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: January 2, 2013 - 1:00 pm ET

Physicians in Congress voted overwhelmingly against the fiscal cliff legislative package that contains a one-year suspension of a scheduled 26.5% Medicare pay cut for doctors.

In the House, physicians rejected the bill—the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012—by a 12-3 margin. The three physician lawmakers who voted for the bill crossed party lines in doing so: GOP Reps. Dan Benishek (Mich.), Nan Hayworth (N.Y.) and Joe Heck (Nev.) voted for the bill. The lone Democratic doctor in Congress, Rep. James McDermott of Washington, voted against it. (Hayworth was the only physician in Congress not re-elected last fall.)

In the Senate, where all three physician members are Republicans, the vote was 2-1 in favor of the legislation, with Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) voting in favor and Rand Paul (Ky.) voting against it. The scheduled Medicare pay cut for doctors, called for by the sustainable growth-rate reimbursement formula, has been delayed by temporary patches for the past 10 years.

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In a news release, Heck (the only osteopath in Congress) noted that as of midnight Dec. 31, taxes went up for everybody, but the Taxpayer Relief Act "permanently lowers rates for 98% of Americans" and "included provisions important to Nevada that would help ensure seniors' access to the physician of their choice."

“While I would have preferred to see more spending cuts in this final package, I did vote for this compromise because, ultimately, it was more important to protect Nevada families and businesses from these unprecedented tax increases," Heck said. "The work is far from over, and I sincerely hope that we can work together to come up with real solutions to the fiscal problems facing our country."

A requested statement from McDermott was not received before deadline.

Other House physicians voting against the bill were Reps. Charles Boustany (La.), Paul Brown (Ga.), Larry Bucshon (Ind.), Michael Burgess (Texas), Bill Cassidy (La.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), John Fleming (La.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Tom Price (Ga.) and Phil Roe (Tenn.). Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who did not seek re-election, did not vote.

"Washington cannot continue to tax, borrow and spend," Roe said in a news release. "We must get our deficit under control, and the only way to do that is to cut spending. While I am glad to see hardworking Americans will get much-needed permanent tax relief, I could not, in good faith, support legislation that does not address our spending problem."

The release did not mention the one-year suspension of the Medicare pay cuts.

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