(Bloomberg) — The U.S. House of Representatives voted to change the way doctors are paid for treating Medicare patients, giving Speaker John Boehner a second legislative victory following weeks of discord in his Republican caucus.
Lawmakers in both parties hailed the 392-37 vote as a breakthrough for a chamber often depicted as dysfunctional.
“I hope this bipartisan approach is contagious,” said Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts on the House floor.
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The vote, along with Wednesday’s adoption by the House of its version of a fiscal 2016 budget, reflects a quick turnaround for Boehner from earlier disputes among Republicans that caused a near-shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security and forced some bills to be pulled for lack of support.
“Over the long term — 20, 30, 40 years — the bill will produce millions of dollars in durable savings for taxpayers,” Boehner of Ohio told reporters before the vote. “This will be the first real entitlement reform that we have seen in nearly two decades.”
Voting for the bill were 212 Republicans and 180 Democrats, while 33 Republicans and four Democrats opposed it. The measure goes to the Senate, where Boehner said he expects “there’ll be a large vote over there as well.”
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Second-ranking Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois had said Wednesday his chamber would pay attention if the bill passed the House with a bipartisan majority.
While senators want some changes, they “have to look at this on balance,” Durbin said. “It’s time to put this to rest once and for all.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, told reporters she will support the legislation and predicted it will pass the Senate.
Unlike the budget measure, which was adopted solely with Republican support, the Medicare bill also represented the work of top Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
The bill, H.R. 2, would replace Medicare’s cost-containment formula for physician payments in place since 1997. Congress has listened to warnings that physicians might stop taking Medicare patients and voted 17 times to prevent the formula from forcing cuts in doctor fees. The existing formula would cut doctors’ pay by 21 percent starting April 1.
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The American Medical Association, the largest U.S. doctors’ organization, has lobbied annually since 2002, when physicians took a 4.8 percent pay cut, for Congress to stop further reductions in its members’ Medicare compensation.
The measure also would include a two-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program past its current Sept. 30 expiration.