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Ensuring Seniors and Military Families Can Continue Seeing Their Doctors

On November 29th, the House passed the Senate Amendments to H.R. 5712, Physician Payment and Therapy Relief Act, which ensures seniors and military families will be able to continue seeing their doctors. This bipartisan legislation blocks the 23 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors, scheduled for December 1, for one month, while a year-long fix is negotiated. 

The Senate passed this legislation on November 18 by unanimous consent. Passage of the bill sent this bill to the President's desk for his signature.

The legislation protects the access to doctors for both Medicare beneficiaries and military families.  (The provision also protects military families because payment rates for doctors in TRICARE -- the health care program for active-duty service members, National Guard and Reserve members, military retirees, and their families -- are tied to Medicare rates.)

The legislation's cost of $1 billion is fully paid for - by using the Medicare savings from a new CMS policy that reduces payments for multiple physical therapy services provided to patients in one day.  However, this proposal would also provide relief to physical therapists by shrinking the reduction from 25 percent to 20 percent.

On November 18, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Republican Chuck Grassley issued a joint statement, stating that “they would pursue a year-long fix to the [physician payment] formula that could be enacted before the month-long patch expires.  The Finance leaders said … that they are working together to secure a mutually agreeable way to pay for the year-long cost of the physician formula … and felt confident they would find a solution.”