Jeffrey Harris, president of the American College of Physicians, said he is terribly frustrated with the process. We felt the legislation simply made imminent sense, he said, adding that the pay reduction would hit primary-care doctors the hardestespecially those in smaller practices where margins are already razor thin. Its going to be far more painful.
The AMA released a statement from its president, Nancy Nielsen, expressing outrage at the Republican lawmakers who voted to block action on the Medicare bill.
The physicians of America are outraged that a group of Republican senators followed the direction of the Bush Administration and voted to protect health insurance companies at the expense of America's seniors, disabled and military families, Neilsen said in a news release. These senators leave for their 4th of July picnics knowing that the most vulnerable Americans are at risk because of the Senate's inability to act.
Its unclear which direction the CMS will take. While the political jockeying on Capitol Hill has ensured that the pay reduction would go through, its almost certain that Congress will stop it when lawmakers return. The CMS could put a temporary hold on processing physician claims until Congress returns, said one healthcare lobbyist. Or, it could process the claims and make any future payment changes retroactive to July 1.
The Senate vote comes after the House passed a Medicare bill on a solid, veto-proof 355-59 vote.
Senate Republicans opposed the bill because it would cut payments to certain types of Medicare Advantage plans, potentially jeopardizing access to care for the seniors enrolled in that program. Along the same lines, the White House had said it would veto the bill.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said opposed to the Democrats take it or leave it approach to the bill. Its past time for the Senate to act responsible and work out a bipartisan bill to avert an unfair cut in the reimbursement rate for doctors who treat Medicare patients, Grassley said in a written statement.