Federal lawmakers have passed a $4.6 billion legislative package that reverses a scheduled Medicare physician pay cut of about 10% and extends funding for the State Childrens Health Insurance Program through the early part of 2009.
The House voted 411-3 today on the bill that includes a host of provisions to extend several Medicare and Medicaid programs that were set to expire, including a physician quality-reporting initiative and a system of bonus payments to doctors who practice in shortage areas. The Senate unanimously passed the bill on Tuesday. Next, the legislation will go to the White House where President Bush is expected to sign it into law.
Though it replaces what would have been a steep cut to doctors with a short-term, 0.5% pay increase through June 30, 2008, several physicians groups still registered complaints.
We are disappointed that the Senate could only agree on a six-month action because it creates great uncertainty for Medicare patients and physicians, Edward Langston, board chairman of the American Medical Association, said in a written statement. We strongly urge Congress to break the tradition of short-term interventions that are not fully funded and fail to chart a course for replacing a flawed payment formula that is a barrier to improving quality and access to care for seniors. -- by Matthew DoBias
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