Last week Congress approved the Continuing Extension Act of 2010 (HR 4851), which temporarily delays the 21-percent cut to Medicare physician payments and extends unemployment benefits, including subsidies to help purchase COBRA coverage, the New York Times reported. Under the extensions package, the payment cut will be blocked until May 31, 2010. The Senate approved the $18 billion legislation in a 59-38 vote, and the House immediately took up the measure and passed it 289-112. Last Thursday evening President Obama signed the bill into law, retroactive to April 1, 2010. Obama praised lawmakers for passing the legislation but encouraged Congress to "move quickly" on a longer-term extension of the benefits.

In a CMS statement, Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator and director for the Center for Medicare, said, "The Administration has repeatedly stated that the formula that determines what physicians and others are paid under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule is broken and needs to be fixed. We will continue to work with Congress to find a long-term solution."