WASHINGTON, D.C. - June 18, 2010 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today applauded Senate passage of legislation to ensure seniors and veterans can continue to receive medical care from the doctors they depend on.  The legislation, which provides a six month extension of the Medicare payment fix for doctors, is fully paid for and was passed by unanimous consent.  The bill now heads to the House for its consideration.

"I am encouraged that the Senate passed an extension of the Medicare payment fix for doctors.  Iowa's seniors deserve to continue to receive the highest quality medical service and stops doctors from taking a 21 percent pay cut," said Harkin.  "I am disappointed, however, that the Medicare fix was separated from an extension of unemployment insurance, a benefit that helps families pay the rent, put food on the table and keep their kids in school as they search for work.  I will continue to fight for this extension and hope that the Senate takes it up expeditiously."

The 21 percent payment cut, which is a result of flaws in Medicare's physician payment formula, the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, took effect June 1.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services placed a temporary hold on the processing of Medicare reimbursement claims to delay implementing the reduced doctor payments.  Unfortunately, the agency was forced to begin processing Medicare claims with the 21 percent payment cut today in order to reimburse doctors' offices for their services.