Senate passes six-month 'doc fix'

Senate passes six-month 'doc fix'

By unanimous consent, the Senate on Friday passed legislation to prevent Medicare doctors from receiving a 21 percent pay cut this month.

The “doc fix” bill — which would delay the scheduled cut for almost six months — now moves to the House, where lawmakers are expected to take it up early next week.

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The House last month passed a 19-month fix, but the larger proposal drew pushback from Senate Republicans, who have fought to offset the new costs.

The Senate's scaled-down version, estimated to cost $6.5 billion, provides a 2.2 percent increase in Medicare reimbursements to doctors through November. The proposal is fully offset, largely by tweaking reimbursements to hospitals.

"I'm glad we were able to work this out,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE (D-Nev.).

The minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPolitical figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer Charles Krauthammer dies at the age of 68 Overnight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos MORE (R-Ky.), said the bill "achieves a goal that both sides wanted to achieve."

"And we've done it," McConnell added, "without adding to the deficit."

To speed passage of the doc-fix provision, Democrats this week plucked it from the larger tax-extenders bill they've been trying to pass for weeks. That proposal contains a number of additional healthcare provisions, including funding for state Medicaid programs designed to shore up struggling state budgets.

Senate Finance Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusClients’ Cohen ties become PR liability Green Party puts Dem seat at risk in Montana Business groups worried about Trump's China tariffs plan MORE (D-Mont.) and the panel's senior Republican, Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report Senate Dems call for Judiciary hearing on Trump's 'zero tolerance' Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt MORE (Iowa), forged a deal on the “doc fix” late Thursday and presented it to their party members on Friday.

Baucus called the development "a good omen" as the Senate attempts to work out the tax extenders bill.

He said passage of the doc-fix bill should lend momentum to the tax extenders proposal.

Reid on Friday vowed to pass the larger extenders bill "at the earliest possible date."

Although the pay cut technically took hold at the start of June, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) had delayed it through most of the month, telling claims handlers to hold claims in lieu of processing them. The idea was to delay the cut until Congress acted to prevent it.

On Friday, however, CMS lost patience with Congress, instructing those contractors to start paying June claims — including the 21 percent cut.

This post was updated at 2:24 p.m.