The Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation permanently overhauling how Medicare pays physicians late Tuesday in a rare show of near-unanimity from Congress.
The legislation headed off a 21 percent cut in doctors’ Medicare fees that would have taken effect Wednesday, when the government planned to begin processing physicians’ claims reflecting that reduction. The bill also provides billions of extra dollars for health care programs for children and low-income families, including additional money for community health centers.
Working into the evening, the Senate approved the measure 92-8 less than three weeks after the House passed it by a lopsided 392-37.
The bill’s passage brought statements of praise from both President Obama and Republican congressional leaders.
“It’s a milestone for physicians, and for the seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare for their health care needs,” Obama said in a statement before later adding “I will be proud to sign it into law.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said approval of the bill was “another reminder of a new Republican Congress that’s back to work. And while no bill will ever be perfect, this legislation is a sensible compromise with wide bipartisan support; we look forward to the President following through on his commitment to sign it.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who crafted the compromise bill with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the reform’s passage “a big deal.”
“For the first time in nearly two decades – and without raising taxes – Congress has come together in a bipartisan way to pass meaningful entitlement reform,” Boehner added. “And while much more must be done to rein in unsustainable entitlement spending, this agreement represents an important step in the right direction.”
Top Democrats in Congress also expressed support for the legislation.