It’s Official: Congress Freezes Medicare Payments for Two Months

Under enormous political pressure inside and outside its ranks, House Republicans Friday morning reversed themselves and passed a two-month freeze of the 27 percent cut in Medicare physician fees. The Senate followed suit. The vote also extended a payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits. President Obama signed the bill a few hours later.

In return, Democrats appointed members to a conference committee that will go to work in early January to design a one-year freeze of the SGR formula. As Senate Major Leader Harry Reid said, “Two months is not a long time.”

At his news conference on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner was still expressing home that the long-term fix would be for two years.

The AMA again urged Congress to end “this sorry cycle of scheduled cuts and short-term patches” and provide long-term stability for Medicare and its patients.

The votes – both by unanimous consent – came after a wild 10-day period:

  • First, the  House passed a one-year freeze that was unacceptable to Senate Democrats.
  • Then, last weekend, the Senate passed a two-month freeze, with the apparent blessing of House Republican leaders.
  • But GOP rank and file rebelled the next day, and forced the House to reject the Senate deal, and demand more negotiations.
  • The House’s decision to reverse its course surfaced suddenly at mid-afternoon on Thursday; by 5:00 p.m. the two-month deal was announced. It’s almost identical to the bill the House rejected on Tuesday.

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