The House voted 355-59 to approve a bill that would avert a Medicare pay cut to physicians and make other adjustments to the program. Democratic sponsors easily achieved the two-thirds majority needed to stave off a presidential veto.
Much of the legislation is based on a Medicare reform bill from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). For example, both bills would stave off a 10% cut to Medicare physician payments for 18 months, providing a payment freeze for the remainder of 2008 starting July 1 and a 1.1% increase for 2009. Funding sources for the bill follow the same combination of cuts to Medicare Advantage, indirect medical education and Medicare Advantage private fee-for-service funding offered in Baucus bill.
The legislation before us today is critical to ensuring access to high-quality physician services for Medicare beneficiaries, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on the House floor. Other Democrats praised the bills attempts to assist poor seniors and rural healthcare providers.
GOP members complained that the Democrats bill was drafted in secret without a chance for public review, and opposed the Medicare Advantage cuts and a provision to postpone a demonstration project regarding competitive bidding for durable medical equipment. Baucus recently failed to garner the needed 60 votes for the Senate to proceed with consideration of his bill on the Senate floor. The White House had threatened a veto if Medicare Advantage was cut. -- by Jennifer Lubell