After a nearly weeklong staring contest, House Republicans blinked Thursday evening when they agreed to vote Friday on a payroll tax cut bill that also temporarily averts a 27.4% cut in Medicare physician reimbursement.
House GOP agrees to vote on tax cut bill
Besides placing a two-month freeze on federal payments to doctors, the bill extends for two months a middle-class payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and the nation's primary welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
"However, a two-month fix is just that—a short-term patch," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who will introduce the bill, said in a statement. "America's employers, families and Medicare doctors deserve long-term solutions," he continued. "When the Senate returns to work in January, we must finish the job and provide greater certainty for these policies."
Last weekend, the Senate passed an amended version of a bill the House passed on Dec. 13 that would have cost about $38.9 billion to provide a two-year solution to the sustainable growth-rate formula. That legislation called for a 1% increase in Medicare physician payments for 2012 and 2013 and was intended to give lawmakers more time to develop a permanent solution to the way doctors are reimbursed under the federal healthcare program. By contrast, the Senate's amended bill provides a 0% update in Medicare physician payments through Feb. 29.
In a statement late Thursday, President Barack Obama congratulated Congress for ending what he called a "partisan stalemate" and urged lawmakers to continue working on an agreement that would extend the payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance for all of 2012 "without drama or delay."
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