Doctors face as much as a 24 percent cut in Medicare fees when a deadline expires later today. So the Senate, in what has become an annual ritual, has scheduled an early evening vote on a measure to spare them. But the massively influential American Medical Association is urging a "no" vote.
At issue: Not whether to extend the "fix" that prevents Medicare fees from dropping — there is strong bipartisan support for this — but how to pay for it and whether to make it permanent.
Last week the House opted for another temporary fix, approving by a voice vote legislation that extends a patch on the program for another year. That bill, which sidesteps the question of how to pay for the cost of the reform long term, was reportedly negotiated by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. (Earlier the House had approved a bill that paid for a permanent fix by delaying the individual mandate in Obamacare, which faced a certain veto.)
By rushing a surprise voice vote on the patch, House leaders avoided putting members on the record in the doc fix controversy. A roll call would have forced members to chose between the AMA and the also influential AARP. The retirees' lobby supports the short-term fix included in the House-passed H.R. 4302.