October 21st, 2009
03:51 PM ET
11 years ago

Democrats lose vote to stop steep physician payment cuts

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Democrats lost a key vote Wednesday on a controversial $247 billion measure designed to ensure that doctors experience no cut in Medicare reimbursement payments over the next 10 years.

The proposal was blocked in a 47-to-53 vote. Thirteen Democrats broke with their party's leadership to join a unanimous Republican opposition.

The measure, known as "doc fix," had been separated from broader proposals to overhaul the nation's health care system.

Under the bill proposed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, Congress would have overriden a formula set more than a decade ago to prevent Medicare costs from rising faster than planned. The formula calls for cutting projected Medicare reimbursements to doctors.

Stabenow's bill would have reversed those cuts, just as Congress has done repeatedly since the formula was imposed in 1997.

Top Democrats have argued that attempts to address problems with the formula must remain separate from broader health care reform proposals.

Conservative critics have countered that legislation such as the Stabenow bill is intended to avoid adding the higher-than-planned Medicare costs to the comprehensive health care legislation. Democrats have pledged not to add to the federal deficit through health care reform.

Republicans slammed the Stabenow bill as a fiscally reckless attempt by health care reform advocates to win the support of groups such as the influential American Medical Association at taxpayer expense.

"It's incredibly troubling that, on one hand, we have members of Congress arguing that we need to have health care reform in order to get control of the fiscal challenges we face. Yet, on the other hand, (they are trying to pass) legislation that undermines past efforts to control health care costs and would in fact make the deficit situation far worse," Maya MacGuineas, head of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said Tuesday.

The AMA issued a statement Wednesday expressing its disappointment with the vote.

"As we work to improve the health system, permanent repeal of the payment formula is essential to ensuring the security and stability of Medicare," said Dr. J. James Rohack, president the AMA.

"The formula is broken and needs to be repealed. Congress created the Medicare physician payment system, and Congress needs to fix this problem once and for all to fulfill its obligation to seniors, baby boomers and military families."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters that once the health care overhaul bill is off the floor, he will try again to pass a multi-year "doc fix."

In the meantime, the Senate health care bill will include a one-year fix, assuring doctors they won't face a dramatic 21 percent rate cut scheduled for 2010.

Reid said he was "stunned" when GOP support for the Stabenow bill dissolved. At one point, he said, he was told 27 Republicans were in favor of the bill.

He blamed what he called GOP obstructionism for the defeat.

–CNN's Ted Barrett, Dana Bash, and Lisa Desjardins contributed to this report.

Filed under: Democrats • Health care • Medicare • Senate
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Freedom

    Thank god their are some real DEMS in congress.

    October 21, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Doug, New Jersey

    If all Americans who have paid into Medicare could just get the money they have put into this failed system back, then they would have enough money to conver not only their own families healthcare, but the healthcare of a few of their neighbors as well.

    Think about how dishonest these Democrats are. They are saying that those who have problems with medicare are hypocrites if they want to use it. Fact is they have been forced to pay for it, yeah we would rather just get our money back but that wont happen.

    If libs cared about human life then they wouldn't be so dishonest and hateful over healthcare and would work with Republicans who have since day one offered good workable effective ideas, just that these ideas will take away from Democrat sharks aka attorneys, who really run the Democrat taker party.

    October 21, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. phoenix86

    Looks like Obamacare cost is back above $1 trillion (over 8 years no less)!

    October 21, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. Liberals are Sneaky

    Obstructionism? More like bi-partisanship.

    October 21, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. Frank

    So lets get this right 13 Dems and all Repubs voted to keep the status quo and continue to short change the doctors and almost ensure the Medicare goes bankrupt. They can never ever say that they are for reform or are for protecting their constituents medicare like they did during the month of August.

    October 21, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. File under "Sarcasm"

    A obvious attempt to pacify the doctors who oppose health care reform funded by decreasing their pay but in a way so as to still be able to claim the bigger health care reform bill is deficit neutral. It highlights how ridiculous the savings projected in the healthcare bill are when the Democrats can't even wait until the bill is passed to try and eliminate them.

    It's also another great idea from Michigan whose financial and employment situation is the worst in the nation. I wonder if its citizens are learning anything about their elected officials when they see things like this proposed.

    October 21, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  7. Dan

    So Republicans were saying that they were protecting Medicare from cuts? I'm confused. Almost as if they were saying one thing and doing another.

    October 21, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  8. Unemployed in IOWA

    Just like the Democrates in Mass., Override the laws previously set.

    October 21, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  9. S Callahan

    Funny thing is....no one really understands what just happen.....summarize.....I just smell the streets full of protesters!

    October 21, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. Steve (the real one)

    Boo-hoo Reid! You couild not even keep the votes of your 13 democrats! Yet, you easily blame the GOP. Could it actually be YOUR LEADERSHIP or lack thereof? I'll bet yes!

    October 21, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. Frank, Las Vegas

    The republicans and the blue dogs will destroy our great country. They have to fix what is broken, not just look the other way and hope it goes away.

    October 21, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. andy

    These dems will now be on the Obama hit list. How dare they go against the mighty Obama and his white house henchmen. THese dems will be shredded on the Obama luv networks this Sunday.

    October 21, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. Angela

    If the Democrats do not have the sense to allow one to lead and all others follow....no health care reform of any sort; and if there is no health care reform....they will be the ones without a job in 2010, not the Republicans!! They would have no one else to blame. When was the last that any party had so many members in congress and the presidency?

    October 21, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  14. Linda

    Oh no. Frightening.

    October 21, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  15. Res Ipsa Loquitor

    I guess I should thank the Republican Senator from Florida for the fact that my 80 year old mother who still works full time won't have any doctors soon....

    October 21, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  16. Marie Laveaux

    Now the cat's really out of the bag! This vote tells the whole world how much Republicans really think of senior citizens. What a fine example of saying one thing and doing another. Don't let the Party of No continues to manipulate you, my fellow seniors. If they had their way, they would end Medicare and Social Security today to save a buck, then turn around and spend it on a useless war.

    October 21, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. LIP

    As I understand it, the Democrats say that this is the status quo, but in reality, by separating it from the helath care proposal, about 147 billion dollars in cost s goes out the window , not to be confused witth the new health care proposal. Reality says that even though we have done this all along, it should now be tagged properly to the Helath care costs so we can get a firm grasp on what our costs will be and why when it is passed, we will be paying higher taxes. The 13 Democrats, god bless them for being smarter than the leftists, saw the light and voted against this dibacle

    October 21, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  18. Bill

    They separated this part from the whole bill so they could say it is costing less than a trillion. What a bunch of sleaze. Is that the way you do it in Chicago??

    October 21, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  19. AndrewCPA

    Good for the 53 smart people in the Senate that voted this down. All this would do is add to the cost of the 'reform' and send it ove the $1T mark.

    The 535 members up on the hill better put their collective heads to figure something out.

    October 21, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  20. Four and The Door

    The Republicans and a few smart Democrats just saved the taxpayers a buncg of money. It's as simple as that. The Democratic proposal was, as usual, sticking it to the US Treasury and taxpayers.

    I like the message this sends to everyone, including the doctors. It's time to cut spending everywhere like we have been doing here on Main Street for the last year!

    October 21, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  21. Jane Lexington, KY

    Any Republican who voted against this bill can no longer claim an interest in protecting senior citizens and their access to healthcare. Senior access to healthcare is through Medicare and minus this fix, the bailing of the doctors from accepting Medicare will become a stampede. You will have your Medicare card but you won't have a doctor to take it. Shame, shame, shame!

    October 21, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  22. File under "Sarcasm"

    Every one of the commenters that takes to task the people that opposed this bill is basically saying they're opposed to the Democrat healthcare reform as short changing the doctors is a key part of the "cost savings" in that bill. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

    October 21, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  23. Christopher

    Yeah, give it to 'em! DRILL BABY DRILL! We don't need no stinking old people! We should just bulldoze their homes and build churches over them, where we will pray for their immortal souls as they waste away on triple-stacked hammocks in a nursing home dormitory. Or maybe an old Army barracks. I think anybody who is over 70 should just be committed on principle. And anybody over 60 should lose their right to vote, drive, or invest their own money. They should become wards of the state, and their estate should be liquidated to pay for their care. Seriously, why should I have to pay extra taxes just to keep a bunch of old carcasses alive who really have no right to live any longer anyway? Eliminate Social Security, eliminate Medicare, establish English as the official language of the US, and build machine-gun towers every 50-ft on our borders, with orders to shoot to kill any illegals caught trying to enter our beloved country.

    October 21, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. Tommygunn

    This sounds like a "misdirect" that both DEMOCRATs and REPUBLICANs have agreed. The bad thing about this is annual adjustment feature is out of control if it takes a vote evey year.

    It would be nice if a REPUBLICAN would had attached an admendment to this bill to insure a controlled calibrated increase would occur based on a certain set of conditions over a period of 4-8 years. But in this case JUST SAY NO...

    To clean up this tragedy, the DEMOCRATs should have attempted to put the multiple increase terms admendment in, if they noticed the REPUBLICANs finally had agreed to something they also like.


    October 21, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
1 2