Medicare doc payment cuts freeze unlikely

Oct. 21, 2009 at 4:43 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday he doesn't have the votes needed to pass a bill that would freeze scheduled Medicare cuts for 10 years.

Vote-counters on both sides of the aisle agree that votes aren't there to pass a 10-year freeze of scheduled cuts to doctors' Medicare payments, The Hill reported Wednesday. Reid, D-Nev., offered to pass a so-called doctor's fix to the scheduled cuts in return for physicians' support of President Obama's healthcare initiative.

Reid needs GOP support on the standalone Medicare bill because at least five Democrats said they would vote against the fix.

Reid told reporters he was led to believe that more than two dozen Republicans would vote for the bill, but did not mention the American Medical Association directly, The Hill reported. Democratic senators said they didn't know whether the AMA told Reid that it could deliver the votes or worked through intermediaries.

Reid said Wednesday he would bring up the 10-year freeze after healthcare reform legislation is acted upon, settling for a one-year fix in the interim.

"We'll take this up again when we finish healthcare," Reid said, "and we'll have a multiple-year fix for this. Right now, we'll only have a one-year fix."

Reid and other Democratic leaders met with doctors' groups last week to discuss strategy on healthcare-related issues. Two participants said Reid and the groups did not talk about a specific number of Republicans that could be persuaded to support the doctors-fix bill.

"No numbers were thrown around," said a representative of one group. "Twenty-seven is a little ambitious."

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