Both houses of Congress put their stamp of approval on the pay roll tax cut bill today, including in it a measure that protects physicians’ Medicare reimbursement rates from the impending 27.4% cut set to take effect March 1.
The bill passed quickly through the House with a 293 to 132 majority, and won in the Senate less than an hour later on a 60-36 vote.
In addition to extending pay roll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, the legislation stems dramatic cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians, an accumulation of gradual cuts that have been delayed by Congress in a series of efforts colloquially called the "doc fix."
The deal, brokered almost entirely by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), makes up for the missing dollars by taking big chunks out of budgets allocated by health care laws to prevention, public health and hospital aid funding.
The bill passed despite some harsh criticisms from both sides of the aisle.
The law, expected to cost $150 billion, passed without a pay-for measure. Some worried that the bill would drain Social Security’s coffers, as the pay roll tax feeds the Social Security Trust Fund.
"I’m not saying anything disparaging about the leadership on both sides of the aisle and the leadership in both bodies, but we are taking money away from the Social Security Trust Fund and we are substituting an IOU that may or may not ever be repaid," Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said.