Congress Rejects Bush Veto, Cuts Stopped

Congress overwhelmingly overrode President Bush's veto of legislation stopping the 10.6-percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians on Tuesday. The House of Representatives voted 383-41 to override the veto, while the Senate voted 70-26.

Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison voted with the majority of the Senate in nullifying the veto. They originally opposed the bill in June but, thanks to e-mails, telephone calls, and letters from angry physicians rallied by the Texas Medical Association and its political arm, TEXPAC, they changed their votes and voted for it when it came up again last week. Physicians kept the pressure on Senators Cornyn and Hutchison to make sure they continued to support the bill.

"Texas physicians are very proud of Senators Cornyn and Hutchison and the 17 House members from Texas who voted to override the veto. On behalf of our patients, we offer our heartfelt thanks," said TMA President Josie Williams, MD.

"Texas physicians are standing with our patients - seniors, military families, and patients with disabilities - to ensure that their medical needs are met now and in the future. This short-term fix is the first step. We call upon leaders on both sides of the aisle to begin bipartisan work. Now, today, is the time to begin work toward a long-term solution of the Medicare financing fiasco."

The bill:

  • Stops the 10.6-percent cut, continues current rates for the rest of this year, and provides an additional 1.1-percent increase in 2009;
  • Gives Congress 18 months to devise a long-term replacement for the Sustainable Growth Rate financing formula, as TMA demands in TMA's Texas Medicare Manifesto ;
  • Extends the Geographical Practice Cost Index, which protects physicians practicing in most of Texas; and
  • Provides parity for Medicare mental health benefits and increases coverage for preventive services.

President Bush vetoed the bill earlier in the day because it cut the Medicare Advantage program. He said he supports the bill's intent -stopping the physician fee cuts - but said "taking choices away from seniors to pay physicians is wrong." 

"It's unfortunate that President Bush chose to put the profits of health insurance companies before the needs of Medicare patients," Dr. Williams said.

The day after Congress overrode the veto, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said physicians should begin receiving the updated rates in about 10 business days or less. Medicare contractors are  updating their payment systems with the new rates  ( PDF ), it said.

CMS said in the meantime, to avoid disrupting claims payment, Medicare contractors will process the claims put on hold after Congress initially failed to stop the 10.6-percent reduction. After Medicare contractors begin to pay claims at the new rate, CMS said, they will automatically reprocess any claims paid at the lower rates.   

"Claims with dates of service July 1 and later billed with a submitted charge at least at the level of the January 1-June 30, 2008, fee schedule amount will be automatically reprocessed," CMS said. "Any lesser amount will require providers to contact their local contractor for direction on obtaining adjustments. Non-participating physicians who submitted unassigned claims at the reduced nonparticipation amount also will need to request an adjustment."

Action , July 16, 2008

Last Updated On

August 29, 2010

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