When Congress reconvenes July 9, it is expected to quickly revisit Medicare legislation, but it will be eight days after a physician Medicare pay cut takes effect. And Republican senators will be peppered with accusations that they put the interests of the Medicare Advantage private insurance plans over those of doctors and their patients.
After the Senate failed by a single vote to move on the Medicare bill late June 26, the American College of Physicians, Medical Group Management Association, American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association and other groups issued statements expressing displeasure. The AMA specifically mentioned how Senate Republicans and President Bush chose reducing payment to doctors as the preferred option to reducing payment to Medicare Advantage plans.
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 Americas seniors, disabled and military families, AMA President Nancy Nielsen said in a news release. These senators leave for their Fourth of July picnics knowing that the most vulnerable Americans are at risk because of the Senates inability to act.
The MGMA agreed. As a result of the obstructionist tactics by the administration and a majority of Republicans in the Senate, physicians will get a devastating 10.6% cut in their Medicare payments starting July 1, William Jessee, MGMA president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.
Fifty Democrats and nine Republicans originally voted in favor of proceeding with the bill, which would replace the cut with a payment freeze for the rest of the year and then boost payments by 1.1% in 2009. The tally fell just shy of the 60-votes needed to advance the measure. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) later changed his vote to nay in a procedural move that lets him bring the bill back to the Senate floor more quickly.
The House had already passed a Medicare bill on a solid, veto-proof 355-59 vote.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) noted that the House bill was passed with 129 yea votes from Republicans. Thats a huge bipartisan vote, she told Modern Healthcare prior to the roll call.