Facing a looming 23 percent cut in physicians’ Medicare reimbursements on December 1, the House quickly cleared legislation commonly referred to as the “doc fix” on its first day back in session following the Thanksgiving break. The legislation – H.R. 5712 – passed by voice vote with no opposition on November 29, and had already been approved unanimously by the Senate before the holiday.

H.R. 5712 would avert the 23 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements for one month, and would be paid for by a new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) policy that reduces payments for multiple therapy services provided to Medicare patients in one day. Though current budget rules exempt the doc fix from needing to be offset, concerns over the federal deficit produced a climate in which only a bill that was fully paid for would be able to advance.

Following House passage, the bill was immediately sent to the White House, and President Obama signed the measure into law the following day, once again staving off the cut and marking the fifth short-term extension of 2010 of the current reimbursement rates for physicians.

Physician advocacy groups praised the short-term doc fix, but also reiterated their call for a long-term solution in order to provide doctors with more stability in their reimbursements and ability to serve Medicare patients. Lawmakers from both parties tend to support a long-term solution, but differ on how to pay for the expensive measure.