Physicians will get a one-month reprieve from a scheduled Medicare pay cut and a number of safety net healthcare programs will see some breathing room before they expire under a deal struck between a holdout senator and Democratic leaders.
Obama signs bill to delay SGR pay cuts, extend jobless health subsidies
The Senate voted late Tuesday 78-19 to approve a bill that extends by one month doctor payments, COBRA premium subsidies, insurance for the unemployed and raft of rural Medicare provisions that went dark on March 1. President Barack Obama quickly signed the bill.
While the policy behind the legislation is key to millions of unemployed, the politics nearly trumped the broader bill. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), who's retiring at the end of this year, held the bill at bay over funding concerns.
The one-man blockade touched off a heated political battle on Capitol Hill, with Democrats battering the senator on and off the Senate floor and Republicans showing only tepid support.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that the move to hold up physician payment has a “spiraling effect” on the healthcare sector, primarily because other Medicare payments to medical professionals are partly based on the physician pay scale. “This is extremely dire,” he said.
The bill costs roughly $10.2 billion, but because most of it was considered emergency spending, lawmakers did not need to offset that amount.
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