After weeks of deadlock by the two parties, the House finally approved a short-term, six-month plan to avoid deep cuts in fees paid to doctors who care for Medicare patients. If the measure not passed, Medicare payments to doctors would have been slashed by 21%, a prospect which raised the question of whether some doctors would have started turning away medicare patients. Although only a temporary, six-month "doc fix" of the Medicare payments issue, its effect will be retroactive to June 1.
The $6.4 billion measure is expected to be paid for by a combination of changes in Medicare billing regulations, antifraud provisions and the tightening of some pension rules, eliminating Republican objections that it would put the federal government deeper into debt. The measure nicknamed the "doc fix" only passed the Senate last week after party leaders finally agreed separate the legislation from a stalled package of tax changes and safety-net spending, including extended unemployment benefits which was filibustered yesterday.
Afterwards, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed frustration and disappointment that Congress only managed to patch together a short-term fix of the Medicare issue, “When they sent this very, very slim reed of a piece of legislation over to us, which wasn’t even really that well written, this was totally inadequate. Members said, ‘No, we have to send something back that is bigger, but let’s see what they can do on unemployment.’ Well, it is clear they are not able to do anything this week.”