The seniors lobby AARP urged Congress to take action.
"Today's vote calls into question whether millions of seniors in Medicare will continue to be able to get the care that they need," AARP Senior Vice President Joyce Rogers said in a statement. "Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, physicians who treat Medicare beneficiaries will face a nearly 30 percent reduction in their Medicare reimbursements. And more physicians may choose to no longer take Medicare patients due to this dramatic cut to their payments."
The American Academy of Family Physicians declared itself "outraged" that Congress failed to act.
"That failure has presented their elderly and disabled constituents a bitter holiday gift — uncertainty whether their physicians will be able to provide the services they need," academy President Glen Stream said in a statement. "Regardless of whether Congress will retroactively make up this devastating loss of practice income next year, federal lawmakers' failure to act will cause grave disruption in physician practices."
The federal Medicare agency told doctors on Monday that it would hold their claims for 10 business days while waiting for Congress to avert the looming payment cut. If no agreement is reached by then, the cut will go into effect and Medicare would have to repay doctors retroactively once Congress makes a decision.