House passes bill to avert Medicare cuts

The House on Tuesday approved a bill that would put off automatic cuts to Medicare provider payments until the end of the year.

The bill passed with a strong bipartisan majority of 384-38.

Technically, the House vote comes nearly two weeks after the cuts were set to take effect, but the delay came with knowledge that action could be postponed until Congress returned from recess and passed the legislation.

The automatic cuts were originally put into place by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which set up an annual 2 percent reduction in Medicare payments as one of its mechanisms for reducing the debt. Congress has never allowed the cuts to take place, however, voting to overturn them regularly over the past decade.

When Congress passed the CARES Act, its $2.2 trillion emergency COVID-19 bill, last March, it pushed the cuts off until April 1 as a way of countering some of the bill’s costs, at least on paper.

Before the most recent recess for Passover and Easter, the House had passed a bill to both put off the deadline for the cuts and deal with a separate statutory issue, resetting the pay-as-you-go ledger to ensure that the most recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill did not trigger $36 billion in Medicare cuts.

The Senate, however, stripped the pay-as-you-go provision from the House legislation, leaving that issue open until December and requiring the House to vote a second time following its recess.

The delay took place with the knowledge that the Biden administration could postpone the cuts through internal machinations until after the bill’s final passage.

President Biden is expected to sign the bill.

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