Medicare Havoc is Here – 50 Million Medicare Claims Get Trimmed

By Gregory

Jun 22, 2010 6:12pm

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: It’s been five days since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there would be “havoc” in America if Congress could not act to stop a 21 percent pay cut for Medicare doctors. 

Congress failed to act. Havoc is here; the 50 million claims that Medicare has gotten since the beginning of June have started processing and somewhere a Medicare doctor is looking at his direct deposit transaction and shaking his fist at Uncle Sam.

Republicans want the “doc fix” offset with spending elsewhere in the budget. Senate Democrats caved and passed a Republican-approved bill. But that didn’t sit well with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who on Friday night rejected the Senate bill.

"I see no reason to pass this inadequate bill until we see jobs legislation coming out of the Senate,” she said in a paper statement.

She is demanding that Republicans allow votes on jobs-related measures passed by the House, including small business hiring incentives, and federal funding for summer jobs programs.

“House Democrats are saying to Republicans in the Senate: show us the jobs!" she exclaimed. 

As lawmakers spar, how many Medicare claims will the government get between June 1st and today? Approximately 50 million, according to Peter Ashkenaz, spokesman for CMS, the government entity that administers Medicare.

Everyone on Capitol Hill thinks that Congress will ultimately act to pay the doctors retroactively, but the way forward is not clear. The “doc fix” has been necessary every year since 2003. In the late ‘90s, as part of the Balanced Budget Act, Congress passed the complicated formula for Medicare doctors that self-corrects each year to keep Medicare solvent. But after a 4.8 percent pay cut for doctors in 2002, lawmakers lost the stomach for balancing the budget and have acted to undo the pay cut each year.

Senators are in a holding pattern. Democratic leaders can’t figure out how to write an extenders bill – which would also extend now-expired unemployment benefits and more – in a way to satisfy both Senate Republicans and House Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested that senators could move on, away from the extenders bill, to consider an Iran sanctions bill later this week. Havoc is here to stay.

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