White House makes moves to veto Medicare physician payment bill

July 11, 2008

White House officials urged Republican senators Friday to reverse their support of a Senate bill that would set aside an impending 10.6% physician payment cut from Medicare, allowing President Bush to veto the legislation.

White House officials urged Republican senators Friday to reverse their support of a Senate bill that would set aside an impending 10.6% physician payment cut from Medicare, allowing President Bush to veto the legislation.

The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (HR 6331) passed the Senate July 9 by a veto-proof margin of 69 to 30. The administration is trying to convince at least three of the 18 Republicans who voted for the legislation to reverse their votes and sustain the upcoming veto, according to a report from the American College of Radiology.

White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto confirmed in a briefing Friday that President Bush intends to veto the measure.

"Does the president still intend to veto this bill?" he asked rhetorically. "The answer is yes."

The president's objections stem from Congressional plans to shift the costs of the bill to the Medicare managed care program, a move that Fratto said would remove about two million seniors from the Medicare Advantage managed care program.

Fratto emphasized that Bush supports the physician payment sections of the bill.

"The president wants to see physicians get their full reimbursement. That was never an issue in this whole debate," he said.

The bill repeals the physician payment cut called for by the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula that went into effect on July 1. It includes an accreditation requirement for providers of advanced diagnostic imaging services and an appropriateness criteria demonstration program.

The ACR countered the president's efforts with a letter to the 18 Republican senators who voted for the bill thanking them for their support and encouraging them to resist the administration's veto effort.

For more from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Senate passes Medicare bill to avert physician payment cuts

CMS calls for temporary hold on Medicare cuts

Senate legislation to avoid Medicare cuts stalls