1-year Medicare doc fix clears Senate

The Senate on Wednesday passed a one-year patch to avoid a looming 25 percent cut to physician reimbursements for Medicare. The payment reduction is set to take effect on Jan. 1, so lawmakers must deal with the issue before they break for the holidays.

The Senate bill still has to win House approval. And it could be a tough sell there, since the proposal dips into health care reform funds to pay the tab for the so-called “doc fix.” The Senate legislation would increase the amount consumers would have to repay the government if they get a bigger tax subsidy for health insurance than they are eligible for under health reform (those subsidies don’t kick in until 2014).

Amid GOP threats to repeal health reform, Democrats have been reluctant to tinker with health reform. But some Republicans have threatened to use the Medicare reimbursement problem-a potent issue with both elderly voters and the powerful doctors’ lobby-as a vehicle to overturn the health overhaul.

So this compromise, hatched by a bipartisan group of Senate leaders, could be just the remedy for now.