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.
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 ReidDraft House bill ignites new Yucca Mountain fight Week ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road MORE (D-Nev.).
The minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStudy: Trump tops recent GOP presidents in signing bills in first 100 days Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown Let’s never talk about a government shutdown — ever again 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 BaucusChanging of the guard at DC’s top lobby firm GOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through MORE (D-Mont.) and the panel's senior Republican, Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyComey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee GOP to kill language exempting staff from new ObamaCare repeal bill House cyber chairman wants to bolster workforce 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.