The Senate has reached a deal to vote this week on a measure to delay Medicare sequester cuts for the rest of the year, a major win for hospitals and providers.
The 2% cuts were scheduled to resume next week absent Congressional action, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reached a deal Tuesday night to vote on a measure that will delay the cuts before the chamber adjourns Friday for a two-week recess.
"Majority Leader Schumer aims to pass the an agreement through the Senate this week," a spokesperson told Modern Healthcare.
The 2% cuts originally took effect in 2013 but were paused by Congress last year in response to the pandemic and its effect on providers' finances.
Hospitals and providers argue that COVID-19 is still causing them financial losses and had been aggressively lobbying the Senate to extend the pause before leaving town.
"We expect the Senate will act this week," said Richard Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. "This isn't the case of asking for more money. This is a situation of preventing a significant cut to Medicare payments."
While extending the pause on the 2% cuts has bipartisan support, a disagreement between Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate over the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed Congress earlier this month had complicated the path forward. Because the relief bill raises the deficit, it could result in billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare and other programs at the end of the year under a federal law called PAYGO.
The House passed legislation last week extending the pause on the 2% Medicare cuts through the end of the year while also waiving the COVID-19 relief bill from PAYGO effects.
Schumer wanted to take up the House bill, but McConnell and other Senate Republicans oppose waiving PAYGO for a relief bill they did not support. Democrats hold a narrow majority in the Senate, making bipartisan support necessary for passage. In the end, the compromise the Senate will vote on this week only deals with the 2 % Medicare cuts, leaving the PAYGO issue for later in the year.
After the Senate votes, the bill will return to the House, where it's expected to pass without issue.
"We expect the House will ultimately accept what the Senate does," Pollack said.
Lobbyists plan to continue pushing Congress to waive PAYGO effects of the COVID-19 relief bill, which could result in a 4% cut to Medicare at the end of the year.