President Obama on Friday signed into law a bill (HR 3962) that prevents a 21% cut to physicians' Medicare reimbursements through November, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The House passed the bill on Thursday -- almost a week after the Senate approved it (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 6/25).
On June 17, the $6.5 billion, six-month stand-alone doc fix emerged as a compromise between Senate Democrats and Republicans. The measure provides a 2.2% Medicare payment increase to physicians through November and is fully offset with two revenue-raising provisions (California Healthline, 6/22).
The 21% cut to Medicare physician reimbursement took effect on June 1. However, CMS delayed processing claims from June 1 until June 18. Although CMS had begun processing physicians' Medicare claims with the 21% pay cut, the agency said in a memo to lawmakers that its Medicare contractors have been instructed to stop processing claims with the rate cut.
The contractors will hold all claims dated June 1 and later for reprocessing as soon as the increased rate has been tested and loaded into the contractors' claims processing systems (CQ HealthBeat, 6/25).
Governors To Lobby Congress for Medicaid Assistance
A bipartisan group of governors this week are expected to lobby lawmakers to reconsider approval of a federal Medicaid state assistance package, which was a part of the larger "extenders" bill (HR 4213) that failed to advance in the Senate, Reuters reports (Lambert, Reuters, 6/25).
On Thursday, Senate Democrats failed to overcome a GOP-led filibuster against a procedural motion to end debate on the extenders bill. Republicans unanimously rejected the bill, citing concerns with its cost and lack of offsets. The bill included a newly revised state Medicaid assistance package, which would extend the federal Medicaid aid to states in the stimulus package through June 2011 (California Healthline, 6/25).
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) on Friday during a conference call with reporters said the rejection of the additional Medicaid aid is "devastating" for as many as 30 states, including Michigan, because state budget officials had factored the new federal aid into their budgets for fiscal year 2011 (Reuters, 6/25).
Governors, many of whom are Republican, have warned that the loss of the funding could force major cuts to their states' budgets and would affect millions of U.S. residents (Luo/Wheaton, New York Times, 6/25).
The loss of about $1.8 billion in additional Medicaid funding will force California lawmakers to find additional cuts or revenue to address the state's $19.1 billion budget deficit (Zapler, San Jose Mercury News, 6/25).
Some governors plan to hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, according to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) (Reuters, 6/25).
Medicaid Assistance Package To Remain Part of Extenders Bill
Although some Democrats have proposed addressing the state Medicaid aid package as a stand-alone measure -- which they say could ease passage -- Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) on Friday that such a plan is not being considered, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Stabenow, during a media conference call, said the Medicaid package is "part of the [extenders] bill," adding, "It's in there because we're committed to keeping it in there." Stabenow said that if senators are able to reach an agreement on the package, they would be able to advance it to the chamber floor quickly. "We could pass it in five minutes," she said.
Stabenow acknowledged that efforts by Republican governors to lobby their GOP senators, who so far have withheld their support for the extenders bill, could offer the best chance for the Medicaid provision. According to "Healthwatch," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has decided to temporarily abandon work on the extenders bill. A Reid spokesperson said, "[Democrats] support it, and it's paid for. But we're going to need Republican support" (Lillis, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 6/27).
Snowe Pushes for Stripped-Down Extenders Bill; Reid Rejects Suggestion
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) on Friday urged Reid to consider offering a stripped-down version of the extenders bill that would address a series of expiring unemployment benefits and insurance provisions, the Washington Post reports.
In a letter to Reid, Snowe said that such a "free-standing extension of unemployment insurances benefits" would secure her vote (Montgomery, Washington Post, 6/26). However, Reid spokesperson Jim Manley said that Snowe's request had been rejected because the extenders bill seeks to achieve those same goals (Schatz, CQ Today, 6/25).
U.S. Residents To Lose Unemployment Benefits, COBRA Subsidies Soon
Meanwhile, 1.2 million U.S. residents will lose their unemployment benefits by the end of this month if Congress does not act soon to prevent the cuts that the extenders bill proposes, according to a new National Employment Law Project analysis, The Hill's "On The Money" reports.
Among the benefits that workers would lose is the federal COBRA subsidies that help them maintain private health insurance coverage. The House eliminated the provision from its bill prior to passage in the House, and it has not been formally restored in the Senate (Needham, "On The Money," The Hill, 6/27).