Congress failed to pass a bill last week that, among other things, would delay a 21% payment cut to physicians who treat Medicare patients slated to go into effect today.
The House of Representatives ultimately passed two versions of the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act, a job and tax bill that would have pushed the payment cuts until December 2011. However, the Senate had already adjourned for a week-long holiday recess, causing outrage from various Medicare advocates.
“Senators are more interested in heading home for the holiday than in preventing a Medicare meltdown for seniors,” Dr. J. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association said in a press release. “This is complete mismanagement of a health care program that America’s seniors and the disabled rely on.”
The bill is now expected to be heard by the Senate when legislators return June 7. In an effort to give the Senate time to pass this legislation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said in a letter to physicians Thursday that they will hold off paying insurance claims filed for the first 10 business days of June.
If the new version of the bill is amended by the Senate, it will have to return to the House for a re-vote before it is officially passed.
Doctors are split over how they will handle the gap in payment. Dr. Scott Fields, professor and vice chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, told ABC news, "What I can say is that the easiest thing to do would be to immediately close to new Medicare patients. This would maintain our commitment to established patients, but limit our risk."
Other physicians said they will continue to accept Medicare patients despite the delay in payment of insurance claims.