KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Votes To Shelve ‘Doc Fix’ Legislation

"The Senate has sidetracked legislation raising Medicare payments for doctors by $247 billion over the next decade," The Associated Press reports. "The 47-53 vote was 13 short of the 60 needed to advance the measure, and reflected bipartisan concern that it would have raised deficits if it became law" (10/21).

The Wall Street Journal: "Without the needed 60 votes to proceed to the bill, it is effectively shelved. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), alluded to that outcome Wednesday, saying he expected the Senate would 'pick this up again' after it considered a broader health-care measure." Action by Congress is still necessary in order "to avoid a 21% drop in physician payments under Medicare" slated for January. It it appears that a temporary solution is in the works, the Journal reports. "'Right now, we're going to a one-year fix,' Mr. Reid said" (Yoest and Kendall, 10/21).

Even before the vote, Reid talked about the expected outcome.

Time's Swampland: "I don't bring anything to the floor unless I think I have the votes," Reid said to reporters while answering a question about the apparent shortfall of support. "I was told by various people that we'd have 27 Republican votes, which seemed reasonable since Senator Jon Kyl was the co-sponsor of this legislation. So I was stunned when I was told by his co-sponsor, Senator Stabenow, that, no, he wouldn't support it" (Newton-Small, 10/21).

The Hill: Earlier today, "Reid told colleagues that the AMA said it could deliver 27 Republican votes for the legislation, according to two Senate Democratic lawmakers, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ... Reid said at a news conference Wednesday that he would bring up the 10-year freeze after the healthcare reform legislation is passed and will settle for a one-year fix in the meantime" (Bolton, 10/21).

Reid "pointed to what he called the 'Republican Senate' for trying to stop the measure from advancing," according to Roll Call. "Reid and other top Democrats called the Medicare payments vote - otherwise known as the 'doc fix' - the 'first vote' of the health care debate and appear to be looking to cast Republicans as obstructionists before the actual debate on the broader overhaul begins." But many Republicans have opposed the measure because it does not include off-sets to cover its price tag. As many as eight Senate Democrats said they would oppose it, too. (Stanton, 10/21).

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