Bill to Increase Medicare Doctor Fees Defeated

October 23, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In what some are framing as a taste of things to come in the passage of health care reform, Senate Democrats sided with Republicans on Wednesday, October 21 and defeated a bill that would have provided increases over the next ten years in physician fees for doctors of Medicare patients.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) said the bill would have averted cuts in payments to physician fees, thereby guaranteeing continued care for Medicare patients.

The coalition defeating the measure, while supporting the increase in fees, opposed the bill, saying that passage of the bill would be fiscally irresponsible without offsetting or covering costs through other means.

The bill would have increased Medicare payments to physicians by $247 billion over the next 10 years.

The bill was heavily supported by groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA), representing interests in the medical field, and the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP), representing seniors and Medicare recipients.

Republicans did not defeat passage of the bill without help, as a dozen Democrats and one Independent voted with Republicans to stop the measure.

The defeat of the bill was seen as a possible test for future floor battles and political wrangling as Congress and the Obama administration proceed with health care reform measures.

In the House, Speaker Pelosi continued her efforts in liberal reform of health care. Ms. Pelosi met with her caucus on Tuesday evening and announced she was nearly finished with a new health care bill that, in terms of cost, would over ten years come in under President Obama’s proposed $900 billion spending limit and include a public option she states would compete with private insurers.

“It will have a public option. And we've always had the votes for the public option,” Ms. Pelosi said, as reported by MSNBC.

“It's just a question of what form it will take.”

Meanwhile, Democrat senators were not so upfront with the public option being a component of their proposed legislation. Senate leader Reid said earlier this week that there was no clear answer as of yet whether the public option would be part of a proposed plan.

The Senate Democrats also met with members of the administration to discuss the merging of two competing Democratic health care proposals emerging from the Senate floor.

Polling Data

On Tuesday, a Washington Post/ABC News poll reported an increase in support for government-run health care—including the public option.

The same poll showed a slight dip in President Obama’s health care approval ratings among fellow Democrats.
Gallup, on Thursday, released polling data revealing 49 percent of Americans felt health care costs would worsen under passage of a health care bill, up from 42 percent in September.

A comparable percentage increase was shown among those who felt the quality of health care would also decline, not improve, under such a government-run plan.

The majority (49 percent) of Americans polled are in opposition to present reform proposals floating through Congress, with 45 percent in approval, according to the Washington Post/ABC News poll data.