House Passes 12-Month 'Doc Fix' By Voice Vote

The bill would avoid a 24 percent reduction in payment for doctors who treat Medicare patients, but the deal is still angering some Republican rank-and-file.

The Washington Post: In Voice Vote, House Approves Medicare 'Doc Fix'
The House quickly approved another so-called "doc fix" bill early Thursday afternoon that serves as a temporary solution to an ongoing structural problem in the formula used to determine Medicare funding levels. After hours of uncertainty over whether the bill have sufficient support to pass, House Republican leaders moved quickly to approve the measure by voice vote (Lowery, 3/27).

The Wall Street Journal: House Passes 12-Month Bill To Prevent Doctor Payment Cuts
The so-called "doc fix" bill is designed to avert for one year a 24% pay cut to physicians treating elderly patients through the federal Medicare program, marking the 17th time lawmakers have sought to prevent the cuts with a short-term measure. Lawmakers last month had reached a bipartisan deal to increase the amount Medicare pays physicians by 0.5 percent annually for the next five years, but couldn't agree on whether or how to pay for its cost. Facing Monday's expiration of the previous patch, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) this week brokered the 12-month deal to ensure that the cuts didn't go into effect (Peterson, 3/27).

The Associated Press: House Approves Bill To Stop Cut To Medicare Docs
Legislation to give doctors a yearlong reprieve from a looming 24 percent cut in their payments from Medicare overcame turbulence in the House on Thursday and appears on track to clear the Senate next week, possibly just hours before a Monday midnight deadline (Taylor, 3/27).

The New York Times: Jobs And Health Bills Make For Busy Day At Capitol
The unemployment bill, however, was one among many of Mr. Boehner’s concerns as he and Republican leaders found themselves backed into a corner after it appeared that legislation they favored that would prevent a 24 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors almost failed with an April 1 deadline looming. The bill, known as the "doc fix," ran into trouble after members of both parties objected to its temporary nature, as many prefer a permanent fix. … To avoid major disruption in hospitals and doctors' offices next week, Mr. Boehner and leaders from both parties agreed to muscle the measure through. … The drama in the House was just one episode in an unusually eventful day on Capitol Hill (Peters, 3/27).

CQ HealthBeat: Secret 'Doc Fix' Deal Angers Rank and File
The House on Thursday passed a bill that likely did not have the votes to pass. It was clear that a bill to avert a pay hike for doctors was short on support, so Republican leaders struck a closed-door agreement with Democrats to pass the bill by voice vote while members were not yet in the chamber, according to members and aides from both parties (Newhauser and Fuller, 3/27).

And a shift in how medical professionals code and bill for their services looms --

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: ICD-10 Might Be Delayed Again. How Will We Know When Squirrels Attack? 
Just last month, the Obama administration said it wouldn't again delay the scheduled shift to a new comprehensive system for coding and diseases, known as ICD-10. "There are no more delays and the system will go live on Oct. 1," Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told a conference of health information management professionals. "Let’s face it, guys, we've delayed this several times and it's time to move on." Well, the administration might not have planned on delaying it, but Congress just might (Millman, 3/27).

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