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Lobbies Praise House Passage of Doc 'Fix,' COBRA Care

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

December 16, 2009 -- House passage Wednesday of a defense spending measure averting—if only briefly—a 21 percent cut in Medicare physician payments drew praise from lobbies representing seniors and doctors, but they urged lawmakers to do much more on the payment issue.

Nancy LeaMond, a member of the board of the seniors' lobby AARP, said "the 60-day patch approved today is yet another band-aid for a flawed payment formula. AARP continues our call for a bill that would permanently fix how Medicare pays doctors."

The American Medical Association said in a statement that the two-month patch "will allow physicians to continue to care for Medicare patients while waiting for the Senate to vote on a permanent solution."

AARP's LeaMond also praised the extension of provisions subsidizing the payment of health insurance payments for "COBRA" coverage, which allows laid-off workers to stay on their former employer's health plan if they pay group rates.

"Unemployed workers over age 55 are out of work for at least nine months on average," she said. "These older workers would rather get back on the job, but in the meantime this measure provides some comfort for those struggling to pay for basic necessities and maintain access to more affordable health coverage."

The provisions were part of a $636 billion fiscal 2010 Defense appropriations bill.

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