The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed bipartisan legislation 257-167 that included a 1-year delay in Medicare physician payment cuts.
The 26.5% payment cut had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
H.R. 8, the Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012, amends the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. It increases the income tax rate for workers earning more than $400,000 annually and extends unemployment benefits.
The Medicare physician payment cut stems from the sustainable growth rate (SGR), a key factor in annual Medicare payment updates designed to limit spending. The American Medical Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology and other medical societies have called for the SGR to be altered or repealed.
“This patch temporarily alleviates the problem, but Congress’ work is not complete; it has simply delayed this massive, unsustainable cut for 1 year. Over the next months, it must act to eliminate this ongoing problem once and for all,” Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD, AMA president, said in a news release.
“This last-minute action on the part of Congress is a clear example of how the Medicare program is increasingly unreliable for physicians and patients,” Lazarus said. “This instability stalls progress in moving Medicare toward new health care delivery models that can improve value for patients through better care coordination. Physicians want to work with Congress to move past this ongoing crisis and toward a Medicare program that ensures access to care and the best health outcomes for patients and a stable, rewarding practice environment for physicians.”
Congress has voted several times in recent years to forestall the Medicare physician payment cut.
In a statement released by the White House, President Barack Obama addressed the importance of compromise with regard to Medicare.
“I agree with Democrats and Republicans that the aging population and the rising cost of health care makes Medicare the biggest contributor to our deficit,” he said. “I believe we’ve got to find ways to reform that program without hurting seniors who count on it to survive. And I believe that there’s further unnecessary spending in government that we can eliminate.”
The final tally on the House legislation included 172 Democratic votes and 85 Republican votes in favor of the bill; 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats voted against the measure.
The Senate passed amendments to the bill Monday by a margin of 89-8.
The legislation has no impact on the previously approved cut of about 13% in Medicare cataract payments, according to Kevin R. Walter, Advocacy Communications Manager for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.