Medicare Cut Averted in Nick of Time

Government inaction would have cut doctor reimbursements by 27 percent.

Dec. 26, 2011— -- WASHINGTON -- Just in time for the holidays, Congress voted Friday morning to pass a payroll tax cut extension bill that also would postpone Medicare cuts for doctors, ending the political standoff that threatened to cut reimbursements to physicians by 27 percent.

The Senate and the House of Representatives both passed the bill by unanimous consent Saturday morning, with no opposition. The bill -- which would extend a payroll tax break, unemployment benefits, and postpone the Medicare cut scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 -- now goes to the president for his signature.

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The bill that Congress passed closely resembles the bill passed recently by the Senate, which House Republicans opposed because they said a two-month fix wasn't long enough. Instead of the Senate bill, House Republicans favored the bill passed by the House recently, mostly on party lines, that would extend both measures for one year. That bill contains offsets that Democrats won't support, including cuts to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged House Republicans to approve the shorter-term fix.

When members of Congress return to Washington in January, they will begin negotiations on a one-year deal.