House Clears The Medicare 'Doc Fix' For The President's Signature; Senate Falls Short Of Passing 9/11 Bill

In the midst of the lame duck session, House lawmakers approve a one-year Medicare pay fix for physicians — clearing the measure for the president's signature.

The New York Times: House Passes Bill Averting Cut In Medicare Reimbursements
The House gave final approval on Thursday to a bill that would avert a 25% cut in Medicare payments to doctors by freezing reimbursement rates at current levels until the end of next year (Pear, 12/9).

PBS NewsHour: Congress Patches Payment Gap For Medicare Doctors
Congress once again headed off a pay cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients by stopping a 25% decrease in the amount the federal government pays them to take care of seniors. The cut was scheduled to take effect on January 1. Lawmakers have faced this issue every year since the 1990s, and every year they have granted doctors a reprieve without fixing the formula that triggers the pay cut. But what made this week different was that the Medicare pay cut became linked with the ongoing battle surrounding health reform (Bowser and Jacobson, 12/9).

The Hill: House Passes Obama-Backed Doc Fix
The House approved a one-year "doc fix" Thursday afternoon that will prevent a dramatic cut in Medicare physician payments. The measure was approved in a 409-2 vote one day after the Senate approved the $19.2 billion fix by unanimous consent (Millman, 12/9).

In other congressional news, the Senate falls short of votes needed to pass legislation to provide 9/11 Ground Zero workers with health benefits and other compensation.

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Vote Falls Short On 9/11 Bill
Senate Republicans on Thursday voted down a bill to provide health care and compensation to sick Ground Zero workers, a major setback for one of New York's biggest legislative priorities and one that left the bill's supporters scrambling for one more chance against shrinking odds (Barrett, 12/10).

The Associated Press: 9/11 Health Bill Falls Short In Senate Test Vote
Senate Republicans on Thursday derailed a bill to aid people who got sick after exposure to dust from the World Trade Center's collapse in the Sept. 11 attack. Supporters were three votes short of the 60 needed to proceed to debate and a final vote on the bill that would have provided as much as $7.4 billion in health care and compensation to 9/11 responders and survivors. The bill failed on a test vote, 57-42 (12/9).

Reuters: Senate Republicans Block 9/11 Health Bill
The $7.4 billion [9/11] measure was one of a number of bills Senate Republicans have blocked as lawmakers push to complete their work for the year. Republicans have vowed to block any legislation, other than bills to fund the U.S. government, until an impasse is resolved over extending expiring tax cuts for virtually all taxpayers, including the wealthiest Americans (Smith, 12/9).

Bloomberg: Sept. 11 Health Bill For Ground Zero Workers Blocked by Senate Republicans
More than 30,000 workers and survivors of the 2001 attacks responded to the attack site while it burned for several weeks. Last month, 10,043 settled lawsuits claiming illness and injury from the alleged failure of the city and 140 contractors to adequately protect them. They will participate in a fund of about $625 million created by the U.S. government (Stewart, 12/9).

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