Two-month freeze for Medicare physician pay included in new spending bill

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Two-month freeze for Medicare physician pay included in new spending bill
Two-month freeze for Medicare physician pay included in new spending bill
President Obama on Monday signed into law a fiscal 2010 Defense Department spending bill that contains a temporary freeze for Medicare physician pay, as well as Medicare eligibility guidelines. A 21% pay cut for Medicare physicians had been set to take effect on Jan. 1, but the new law will delay that cut until Feb. 28.

Now, lawmakers have more time to attempt to come up with a permanent fix. The House of Representatives had passed a measure in November, HR 3961, that would correct the Medicare physician pay schedule, but the Senate has been too bogged down by reform debates to consider the measure. Republicans in that chamber had actually stalled passage of the Defense bill as a tactic for delaying the passage of healthcare reform. The Senate is expected to address the pay fix before the Feb. 28 deadline, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

The $636.3 billion bill also contains a stipulation that requires the Department of Health and Human Services to maintain its poverty guidelines for the first two months of 2010 at 2009 levels. This would prevent a reduction in the number of Medicaid eligible individuals.