The Senate agreed unanimously today to pass a version of H.R. 3962 that would ease pension funding rule changes sought by employer groups and reverse a 21% cut in Medicare and military health plan physician reimbursement rates.
The relatively short, 78-page bill, a substitute version of H.R. 3962 offered by Sen. Max Baucus, D- Mont., helped the Senate get the pension funding provisions and the Medicare reimbursement provisions past budget deficit concerns that have slowed the progress of a broader bill, H.R. 4213.
The H.R. 3962 pension funding provisions would give pension plan sponsors more time than they now have to make up funding shortfalls, but sponsors that paid any employee more than $1 million, paid extraordinary dividends, or engaged in extraordinary stock buybacks would have to make extra plan contributions.
The Medicare provisions would put off the reimbursement rate cuts for 6 months. The cuts were set to take effect today.
Versions of H.R. 4213 being debated on the Senate floor this week included the pension and Medicare reimbursement provisions, along with many other provisions. Lawmakers have seen H.R. 4213 as a vehicle for renewing an unemployment benefits extension program, extending many popular tax breaks, and, possibly, extending the 65% federal COBRA health benefits continuation subsidy and updating the estate tax rules.
A day before the Senate passed H.R. 3962, Republicans and some Democrats were saying H.R. 4213 was too expensive.