Congress adjourned on last Friday before voting on H.R. 6331, which would stall cuts to physician payments for services provided to Medicare patients. A cut of 10.6 percent was scheduled to take effect July 1. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has essentially frozen the current pricing system. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, in an announcement last weekend, said the freeze could last up to 10 days.

The Senate version of H.R. 6331 was one vote short of passage. According to published reports, the bill will be considered again by the Senate when it returns the week of July 7. However, President Bush has said he would veto H.R. 6331, citing opposition to Medicare Advantage (MA) Private Fee for Service (PFFS) provisions. The legislation requires MA PFFS plans in areas where no MA HMOs or PPOs are offered; this requirement demonstrates that geographic areas have adequate physician coverage for the enrolled Medicare population, which is an existing requirement for HMOs and PPOs.

More information on H.R. 6331 and further action on passage of the legislation will be detailed in the next Weekly Update.