Senators pushing for vote on Medicare bill by week's end

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Senators pushing for vote on Medicare bill by week's end
Senators pushing for vote on Medicare bill by week's end
Senate Democratic leaders are hoping for a vote on the critical Medicare bill by the end of the week, news and industry sources say.

A second cloture vote on H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, could take place Wednesday or Thursday. Cloture would limit debate on the bill and allow the Senate to proceed towards a vote. Prior to the Fourth of July recess, senators fell one vote short of the 60 needed to invoke cloture. Still, even if the bill passes, President Bush could veto it because of its cuts to Medicare Advantage plans.

Meanwhile, a key initiative that would be halted by the legislation is still in effect. Nursing homes are still grappling with full implementation of Medicare Part B therapy caps, which went into effect on July 1. A freeze on a 10.6% Medicare physician fee cut also has been in play since July 1. Senate Republican leaders have been urging a vote in the Senate that would freeze Medicare physician payments for 31 days, but at least one senator, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), opposes it.