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Senate Removes Medicare Payment Cut Delay from Jobs Bill

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, February 12, 2010

The American Medical Association (AMA) got what it wanted Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) removed a provision from the Senate jobs bill. The plan, which the AMA opposed, would have extended a Medicare payment cut for seven more months. Other healthcare provisions were removed as well.

"No one can dispute that we have a jobs bill," Reid said Thursday about the $80 billion pared-down bill. He added the "smaller package" he was introducing focused on highway programs, equipment write-offs, hiring tax credits, and building bonds.

Earlier in the week, the Senate inserted several provisions into the bill affecting physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, and other Medicare and Medicaid providers that expired on Jan. 1. With healthcare reform in the background, the jobs bill had appeared as a logical vehicle to move legislation ahead.

However, earlier in the week, the AMA criticized pushing off the proposed 21% Medicare payment cut as a "Band-Aid measure." The measure actually extended the current temporary fix—approved by Congress in late December—which expires at the end of February.

The AMA has been calling for a “permanent fix." The House approved a bill (HR 3961) in November that would have replaced the current payment formula. In October, the Senate failed to approve a similar measure. In recent weeks, AMA--joined by groups such as AARP and the Military Officers Association--have been calling for that change.

The healthcare provisions are expected to come back in separate "extenders bill" that the Senate could take up when it returns following the President's Day recess.

The jobs bill that was released by the Senate Finance Committee Thursday included technical corrections for Medicare Part B therapy caps, extension of payment rules for long-term care hospitals, and an extension to COBRA premium assistance.


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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