Well, this sure took long enough. The Senate belatedly voted Friday to spare doctors who treat Medicare patients from a 21 precent cut in pay.
But, guess what? The pay cut, which neither Democrats nor Republicans in Congress support, technically took effect June 1.
Medicare officials have been holding off processing doctors' bills ever since, expecting Congress would pass legislation to cancel the cut. But that grace period has come to an end, and Medicare is starting to pay docs at the reduced rate.
How did it come to this? In case you missed it, lawmakers had already patched the pay three times in the past six months. But while the House cancelled the cut as part of a broader tax and spending bill in late May, the Senate has so far failed to reach agreement on the measure.
So for now the Senate has passed a stand-alone bill that would give doctors a 2 percent raise for the next six months. But the House has gone home for the weekend, so final action can't take place until next week.
Meanwhile, Medicare officials say they're starting to process doctors' bills they've been holding with the 21 percent cut.
Doctors, as you might imagine, are none too happy. "This is no way to run a major health coverage program – already the instability caused by repeated short-term delays is taking its toll," AMA President Dr. Cecil B. Wilson, said in a statement. He said some doctors are limiting the number of Medicare patients they will see.