U.S. House backs 1-year delay to doctor pay cuts under Medicare

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2014 12:18 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation on Thursday to avert looming pay cuts for doctors under the government's Medicare health insurance program for older Americans and the disabled.

The measure to postpone the cuts was approved in a voice vote after an earlier delay signaled potential trouble mustering support for the bill, which halts the pay cuts for one year.

Some Democrats have said they opposed the stopgap solution, echoing concerns from medical providers that a longer-term overhaul of the Medicare payment system for doctors is needed.

The legislation would have required a two-thirds majority to pass, meaning some Democrats would have been needed to join the Republican majority in supporting it. Instead, House Republican leaders opted for a voice vote on the floor.

On Wednesday, U.S. House and Senate leaders said they had agreed to a proposal to delay the cuts for another year.

The measure would again give doctors a one-year reprieve from cuts under the Medicare payment formula, known as the sustainable growth rate, or SGR.

Doctors groups oppose the temporary patch and have lobbied heavily for a longer-term fix to the formula that was set up in the 1990s but has never been fully enacted and instead been overridden nearly every year.

The payments affect doctors treating patients under Medicare, which pays for healthcare for nearly 51 million people in the United States who are 65 and older or disabled.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Susan Heavey; Editing by Doina Chiacu)