A Medicare reform bill that would stave off cuts to physician payments through 2009 effectively became law after the Senate voted 70-26 to override a presidential veto of the bill. The vote came shortly after the House voted 383-41 to override a veto on the same legislation.
Both chambers of Congress acted quickly to overturn President Bush's rejection of the bill, which halts a 10.6% cut to physician payments for the next 18 months, includes a slight pay bump in 2009 and makes other adjustments.
"We wasted no time in reversing the presidents carelessness and protecting our nations doctors and the patients they treat–and this responsible and overdue Medicare fix is now law," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a written statement.
Both the House and Senate had previously approved the bill by veto-proof margins. In a statement, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) called on senators and representatives to overturn the veto. Overriding the presidents veto will not only stop payment cuts that could keep doctors from seeing Medicare and Tricare patients, but will also bring billions of dollars in help to low-income and rural seniors, and make improvements across the program, Baucus said.
The bill would halt a 10.6% cut to physician payments for the next 18 months and includes a slight pay bump in 2009.
The White House said the legislation is fiscally irresponsible, because it would take choices away from American seniors by cutting the Medicare Advantage program. I support the primary objective of this legislation, to forestall reductions in physician payments. Yet taking choices away from seniors to pay physicians is wrong, Bush said in a statement.
The bill could decrease Medicare Advantage enrollment by about 2.3 million individuals in 2013 relative to the programs current baseline, Bush said. -- by Jennifer Lubell