Congress overrode a veto of legislation on July 15 that canceled a cut in Medicare payments to doctors scheduled to go into effect July 1.
Restoring the payments to doctors and providing an increase in their fees over the next 18 months was partially paid for by cutting the Medicare Advantage program provided by health insurers by approximately $12.5 billion over 5 years.
The Congress acted within several hours of President Bush’s decision to veto the legislation because he opposed the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program.
The president said in his veto message that he objected to the bill because it was “fiscally irresponsible” and relied on “short-term budget gimmicks” that do not address the long-term fiscal soundness of the Medicare program.
It marked the fourth time Congress has overridden a presidential veto.
The House voted, 383 to 41, on the afternoon of July 15 to override the veto. Within hours, the Senate voted 70 to 26, much closer but still more than the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto.
However, because of the complex way the Medicare program is funded, the payment fix for doctors under Medicare is only for 18 months. And, unless dealt with again, the payments would be cut by 20% unless Congress acts further.
In a statement, Robert Zirkelbach senior manager, media relations, for America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, said, “It is unfortunate that Congress chose to cut the Medicare Advantage program that seniors rely on.”