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House Takes Back Medicare Provider Rate Cut

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Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have voted 243-183 for H.R. 3962, a bill that would repeal a 21% Medicare physician fee reduction that is set to take effect in January 2010.

The bill would replace the physician payment formula with a “more stable system that ends the unrealistic cycle of threats of ever-larger fee cuts followed by short-term patches,” according to officials at the House Ways and Committee.

“It will also follow [President Obama's] lead by ending a budget gimmick that artificially reduces the deficit by assuming physician payments will be massively cut over the next several years, even though Congress has consistently intervened to prevent those cuts from occurring,” committee officials say.

But the Congressional Budget Office and critics of the major congressional health bills have noted that they appear to be on track to cut the federal budget deficit over an initial 10-year period partly because they assume that Congress will make big cuts in Medicare provider reimbursement rates, and make the cuts stick.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, says H.R. 3962 would add about $300 billion to the federal budget deficit over 10 years.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have voted to add nearly $300 billion to the deficit just days after the national debt topped $12 trillion for the first time in U.S. history,” Boehner says in a statement. “This irresponsible ‘doc fix’ proves once again that out-of-touch Washington Democrats simply cannot help themselves when it comes to piling debt on our kids and grandkids.

Today, Republicans say, Medicare physicians are on track to get a 21% reimbursement cut in 2010, and 5% cuts in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Republicans support providing steady 2% increases in reimbursement rates each of the next 4 years, House Republicans say.

Democrats would increase reimbursement rates 0.8% in 2010, but then might start cutting rates again in 2011, Republicans say.


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