House Passes Six-Month Medicare ‘Doc Fix’

Posted June 24, 2010 at 6:13pm

The House on Thursday cleared a six-month extension in increased Medicare payment rates to doctors, less than a week after Speaker Nancy Pelosi effectively declared the Senate-passed measure dead on arrival in her chamber.

The “doc fix,” which would restore Medicare payment cuts that took effect June 18, was a last-minute addition to the House floor schedule Thursday afternoon and gained broad support from both sides of the aisle.

The 417-1 vote to pass the measure came after Pelosi told reporters earlier Thursday that her frustration with Senate inaction on a broader package extending expired middle class tax cuts and jobless benefits had prompted her to try to move the six-month extension that the Senate passed June 18, even though she considered that measure “totally inadequate” and “poorly written.”

Still, Democrats touted the measure as evidence of their commitment to doctors and seniors.

“Democrats have been fighting to get this right,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said. “We’re going to get it right. … Physicians, your friends are us.”

The broader extenders bill, which has been stalled in the Senate for three weeks amid opposition from Republicans and some moderate Democrats, includes a longer-term doc fix. On Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) again fell short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate on the extenders bill.

Pelosi said she decided to move the six-month doc fix after it became clear the Senate would not complete work this week on the tax extenders bill.

On June 18, Pelosi blasted the Senate-passed doc fix and said she saw “no reason to pass this inadequate bill until we see jobs legislation coming out of the Senate.”

House Democratic leaders ideally want the Senate to act on legislation that more closely resembles a bill the chamber passed in November blocking the payment cut and restructuring the formula on a long-term basis.