WHILE WE WERE GONE: Obama Signs Legislation To Extend Payroll Tax Break, Delay Scheduled Cuts to Medicare Physician Payment Rates
While American Health Line is on hiatus, lawmakers continue to work. Below is an update on a story AHL has been following.
President Obama on Dec. 23 signed a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut that includes a two-month delay to scheduled Medicare reimbursement cuts for physicians, CQ Today reports.
The measure came together after House Republicans reversed on a decision earlier in the week and agreed to accept a short-term measure. The House and Senate unanimously approved the measure (HR 3765) during legislative sessions earlier that day.
House and Senate leaders agreed to a deal that is almost identical to a bill (HR 3630) approved by the Senate on Dec. 17 (Lesniewski, CQ Today, 12/23). The Senate on Dec. 17 voted 89-10 to approve a two-month version of a House-approved payroll tax break and Medicare “doc fix” measure. Senate leaders initially assumed that the bill would pass easily in the House because it had been endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and included a provision related to a controversial oil pipeline that Republicans favor.
Instead, the House rejected the short-term measure and on Dec. 20 voted 229-193 to set up a conference committee to work out differences with the Senate on the proposal (American Health Line, 12/22).
Under the deal, Medicare will continue reimbursing physicians at current rates, averting a 27% payment cut that would have been effective on Jan. 1 (Steinhauer, New York Times, 12/22).
Republicans secured several minor concessions from Senate leaders, including an agreement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to appoint members to a conference committee to negotiate after Jan. 1 on how to fund a full-year tax cut (Washington Post, 12/22).
Payroll Tax Cut Discussions To Resume After Recess
Although lawmakers prevented cuts of nearly 30% to Medicare physician payment rates, a House-Senate conference committee still will need to reach a long-term agreement on the issue, CQ Today reports (Goldfarb/Schatz, CQ Today, 12/27).
Lawmakers will need to find at least $150 billion to offset extensions to the payroll tax break, jobless benefits and the doc fix through the end of 2012. Republicans have opposed tax increases to offset the costs, while Democrats said they will not allow additional cuts to discretionary spending or a one-year extension of a pay freeze for federal workers (CQ Today, 12/27).
– compiled by Lindsey Underwood