Congress to blame for 21% cut to doctors

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - Political gridlock in the Senate has triggered a 21 percent cut in Medicare fees to doctors.

Funding to temporarily stave off the cuts was part of a bill passed by the House last week to extend unemployment benefits and other government programs. But the Senate was unable to act on the one-month fix because Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky objected that the $10 billion measure would add to the deficit.

Republican leaders have since pledged to help pass the temporary legislation. In the meantime, the administration is ordering Medicare billing contractors not to pay any claims from doctors for the first 10 business days of March. It hopes the Senate will move swiftly and physicians can be reimbursed in full. Medicare usually pays electronic claims in 14 days.

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