The chamber also unanimously rejected President Barack Obama's proposed budget 97-0 after Republicans insisted on its consideration.
The vote demonstrated that neither partisan approach will succeed in a Congress where the two parties each control one chamber, provider advocates said.
“Now I hope they will have a bipartisan policy discussion where they bring in healthcare experts and really think this through,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Modern Healthcare.
Vice President Joe Biden is leading the highest-profile bipartisan group in discussions over budget-deficit reductions, but one of its fault lines is whether Democrats will allow it to consider including Medicare cuts.
However, it remains inevitable that budget talks ultimately will include Medicare and Medicaid changes, said Michael Regier, senior vice president of legal and corporate affairs at VHA Inc., because it is mathematically impossible to reduce federal deficits while excluding those programs.
“Over the longer term, providers are going to have to remain very engaged in this,” Regier said in an interview.