Washington (AP) - President Bush intends to block a bill protecting doctors from a cut in their Medicare pay, even though Congress has enough votes to override his veto, a White House spokesman indicated on Thursday.
To pay for rescinding the 10.6 rate cut, lawmakers would reduce spending on private health insurers serving about 9 million elderly and disabled patients through Medicare Advantage.
That reduced spending - about $13.5 billion over five years - would slow enrollment growth. The White House predicts that about 2 million fewer people would take part in the program.
"Taking choices away from seniors in order to pay for the reimbursements for physicians is the wrong way to pass this bill and to extend the reimbursements that we want to see physicians get," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.
On Wednesday, an ailing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., came to the floor to cast a dramatic and decisive vote on the long-stalled Medicare legislation. The vote showed that Democrats had enough support to advance the bill, which eventually passed 69-30. Two weeks earlier, the House approved the bill 355 to 59.
Prior to the Senate vote, Democratic lawmakers had voiced doubts about whether Bush would veto the bill, even though the president's senior advisers announced that they would advise him to do so.
"The statements I've heard with respect to the potential veto are not Shermanesque. There's some give there. There's some daylight there," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.
Lawmakers are under pressure from doctors and the elderly patients they serve to void the cut, which kicked in July 1 because of a funding formula that establishes lower reimbursement rates when Medicare spending levels exceed established targets. Some doctors say they'll quit taking new patients if the cuts stand.
President Bush intends to block a bill protecting doctors from a cut in their Medicare pay, even though Congress has enough votes to override his veto~~, a White House spokesman indicated on Thursday.