The U.S. Senate tonight passed a bill entitled the “Physician Payment and Therapy Relief Act” that will postpone a 23% cut in Medicare reimbursement to physicians from December 1st to January 1st. The bill was constructed by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Senators Baucus and Grassley also announced that they would seek a second “doc fix” that would further delay the scheduled December 1st pay cut as well as the 2% pay cut scheduled for January 1, 2011. The second bill would postpone all pending physician reimbursement cuts until January 1, 2012.
Unfortunately for physicians facing the 23% pay cut in 12 days, the House has already adjourned for the Thanksgiving holiday, meaning that they cannot take up consideration of the Senate bill before November 29th. There is currently a bill proposed by Representative John Dingell (D-MI) that would extend the effective date of Medicare cuts until January 1, 2012. Whether the House pursues Dingell’s bill or takes up the Senate bill on the 29th is unclear, but spokespersons for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have indicated that the House would consider “doc fix” legislation prior to the December 1st deadline.