Visit aarp.org/coronavirus for the latest coronavirus news and information.
by Candy Sagon, AARP Bulletin, March 3, 2010
Doctors and their Medicare patients are breathing a sigh of relief, after the Senate voted last night by a vote of 78-19 to grant a 30-day reprieve on cuts in Medicare payments to physicians. The stopgap bill, which passed the House last week, also included unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless and funding for highway programs. President Obama signed it into law late Tuesday.
The so called “doc fix”—part of a larger package reviving popular tax cuts and extending jobless benefits—had been blocked for days by Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, causing the government to furlough highway workers and end some unemployment benefits. The automatic 21 percent cut in doctors’ fees, contained in a 1997 law designed to rein in Medicare spending, took effect March 1. Congress usually acts before the automatic triggering of the cuts, but Bunning wanted to force Democrats to find a way to finance the bill so that it wouldn’t add to the federal deficit.
If payments are unduly low, doctors will begin turning away Medicare patients, experts say. While the rate cut would have affected all types of physicians, already-beleaguered primary care doctors would have been among the hardest hit because their average income is lower than that of specialists, and they tend to see a lot of Medicare patients.
The last-minute vote to delay the cuts until April 1 was criticized by American Medical Association president J. James Rohack. “This vicious cycle of short-term delays that increase the size of the cut and the cost of reform for American taxpayers must come to an end,” he said in a prepared statement, calling on the Senate to permanently repeal the “flawed Medicare physician payment formula.”
Candy Sagon is a writer with the AARP Bulletin.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Members can take a free confidential hearing test by phone.
25% off device and online privacy protection plans
25% off the first healthy meal delivery of $99+.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at