Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2014

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Senate approves Medicare patch for doctors

The U.S. Senate made strides today to ensure that Medicare patients won't be turned away by their doctors -- at least not in 2011.

Senators approved legislation to hold steady through the end of next year reimbursement rates for doctors who treat Medicare patients.

Without a patch, physicians face an almost 30 percent cut in reimbursements starting Jan. 1.

"This bipartisan agreement gives peace of mind to seniors and military families in Nevada and across the nation," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

The Sun recently reported that 12 percent of Nevada physicians have dropped out of the Medicare program rather than face uncertainty over payments.

About 300,000 people in Nevada receive Medicare benefits. Two-thirds are low-income.

The higher reimbursements would be paid for by money collected through the health care reform act. People who receive more insurance premium tax credits than they are entitled to (because they earned more money than expected in a given year) would pay the government back on a sliding scale determined by income rather than a flat fee.

Senators say the new payback system is more fair to recipients and to taxpayers. The extra money also is needed to pay doctors the higher rates.

The legislation now must be passed by the House and signed by the president to become law. Both are expected to support it.

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