Senate Leaders Strike Deal on ‘Doc Fix’

Posted June 18, 2010 at 1:06pm

Senate Democrats got one major political headache off their plate Friday, by striking a deal with Republicans to delay a scheduled pay cut for Medicare doctors.

But leaders still have yet to resolve larger problems with restoring jobless benefits and middle-class tax cuts that expired earlier this month. A one-year “fix” to the Medicare doctors issue had been included with an extension of unemployment benefits in a major tax extenders bill that fell to a filibuster Thursday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the floor Friday afternoon and passed the six-month delay of the reimbursement cuts by unanimous consent.

The 21 percent cut was scheduled to hit doctors within days, and both parties were concerned that doctors would make good on their threats to stop treating Medicare patients if their reimbursement rates were not restored.

McConnell praised the measure because it was offset with spending reductions elsewhere, while Reid said he was “glad we were able to work this out.”

It was unclear whether Democrats would decide to keep the longer delay of the pay cut in their tax extenders bill, considering eliminating it altogether would significantly reduce the cost of the overall bill. Both Democrats and Republicans have blocked the bill over the estimated cost to the federal deficit.