Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made a last-minute appeal to GOP leaders to support a majority-sponsored Medicare reform bill, which may be up for a vote in the Senate as early as Wednesday.
The bill would halt Medicare payment cuts to physicians through 2009 and make other adjustments to the program. A 10.6% cut to Medicare physician payments went into effect July 1.
"Your actions in opposing this bipartisan bill are causing significant disruption and uncertainty for Medicare providers and beneficiaries," Reid wrote in a letter addressed to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. Senators previously fell one vote short of the 60 needed to proceed with the legislation.
The three GOP senators in their own correspondence to Reid last week had requested a Senate vote to freeze Medicare physician payments for 31 days, to buy more time to reach a bipartisan solution.
Grassley defended that approach in a written statement. The Senate extended current law this year for the air traffic control system and higher education, "and we ought to do the same for Medicare so we can get back to the work that's been done on an 18-month package that can become law right away, rather than taking action that guarantees a veto and more time being wasted," Grassley said.
President Bush has threatened to veto the Democrat-sponsored legislation, which proposes cuts to Medicare Advantage private fee-for-service payments as a primary source to pay for the physician-payment fix. Grassley had proposed an alternative that he insisted was the veto-proof bill. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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