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Senate Rejects Cut to Doctors’ Medicare Payments

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday blocking a 10.6 percent drop in Medicare payments to doctors treating elderly, troops and veterans. Susan Dentzer discusses the short and long-term implications of the move by Congress, which President Bush will likely veto.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    By a veto-proof majority, Congress moved today to roll back a plan to cut Medicare payments to the nation's doctors. A previous law, if allowed to stand, would have reduced reimbursements by 11 percent, and doctors cried foul.

    But the Senate today joined the House in rejecting the rollback, ending what had become a long standoff. Joining us to talk about the implications of today's vote is Susan Dentzer, the editor-in-chief of the journal Health Affairs, and until recently the NewsHour's health correspondent.

    Welcome back, Susan.

    SUSAN DENTZER, editor, Health Affairs: Thanks, Gwen. Great to be back.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    What broke through this huge logjam today, finally?

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    Essentially, election-year politics, really. In a very dramatic moment in the Senate, Senator Ted Kennedy — of course, who's being treated for brain cancer, probably fatal — came back onto the floor of the Senate for the first time in quite a while to cast the 60th vote to cut off debate over the bill in question and that, in fact, broke the logjam.

    Sixty votes, of course, meant that nine Republicans then, additional Republicans — nine had already voted for it — nine additional Republicans then realized the game was over, crossed party lines, voted for it, so the vote ended 69-30 in favor of the bill, which, in effect, was the bill that rescinded the payment cuts, at least for now. For 18 months, there will be no payment cuts.

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