Wrapping up legislative business before the Christmas recess, the Senate on Saturday approved legislation that freezes Medicare payments to physicians until Feb. 29.
In a vote of 89-10, the Senate passed an amended version of the House payroll tax bill that the lower chamber approved earlier this week. The legislation from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (PDF)—which extends a payroll tax holiday for two months—provides no payment update in Medicare reimbursement levels for the nation’s doctors in January and February 2012, which prevents a 27.4% cut that was scheduled to tax effect on Jan. 1.
Meanwhile, the bill also extends for two months a host of Medicare and health-related provisions that would otherwise have expired by year’s end. These measures include reimbursement raises for ambulance services, mental health reimbursements, the Qualifying Individual (QI) program, the outpatient “hold harmless” provision, and transitional medical assistance, which provides Medicaid benefits for low-income families who are transitioning from welfare to work.
In a statement, American Medical Association President Dr. Peter Carmel said waiting until the final week of the legislative session to address an issue Congress knew about all year is no way to conduct business for the country.