The Senate side-stepped a catastrophe to senior healthcare this month as it passed the “doc fix”, legislation sponsored by Harry Reid and Sen. Max Baucus, which slashes Medicare reimbursements to physicians by 25%,  slated for January 1.  Instead, the Medicare reimbursements will remain the same. At least, this is what everyone hopes will take place for the next year.

The legislation was then voted upon by the House, and passed by a 409 to 2 vote, with a price tag of 14.9 billion dollars. This averts the panic that would ensue by masses of doctors rejecting Medicare patients as well as TRICARE coverage which affects military families.

Various medicare payment policies  like  the therapy cap exception that were slated to expire were also extended by the Senate. Medicare,Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program were additionally funded with minor amending.  This defuses the Medicare crisis at least temporarily.

Bill sponsors are suggesting that a provision in the Affordable Care Act relating to tax credits for purchasers of health coverage be altered to defray the costs. Though, they would be required to return a portion of the tax credit amounts received if they earn more money than anticipated within the same year. Further, if they are at or below the federal poverty level by 400 percent, limits of repayment have been set at $250 for persons and four hundred dollars for families. The senate sponsors feel that this would save nineteen billion dollars.

Despite the good news, the Senate is not eliminating the Medicare reimbursement 25% rate slash that was originally scheduled for January 1, 2011 but merely postpones it until 2012.

This was the fifth time this year that Congress approved a temporary fix to physician rate reimbursement for Medicare and President Obama urged Congress to devise a solvent plan moving forward.

Hopefully by then, the sustainable growth rate formula can be reconfigured to create a permanent doc fix.