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“Whoop-De-Do!” To The Medicare Physician Pay Cut Problem

After months of dithering, delaying, denying, and defaulting on a decision, Congress ended up…doing as little as possible to address the Medicare physician pay cut problem.

Thursday night the House of Representatives acceded to the Senate’s bill to provide physicians with a 2.2 percent update retroactive to June 1. This respite, though, lasts only through the end of November, when physicians and patients will again face another double-digit cut. And if the past is prologue, a lame-duck Congress then will wait until the very last minute to enact another short-term patch, or worse yet, allow the cut to go into effect on December 1 and then pass some kind of retroactive adjustment.

You know that the situation has gotten ridiculously bad when the President says this about the bill he just signed into law:

“Kicking these cuts down the road just isn’t an adequate solution.”

And when Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) calls it “inadequate” and a “great disappointment” and the best that any had to say about it was this from SFC ranking member Charles Grassley (R-IA):

“This action was critically needed so there’s no disruption in services for anyone.”

But it’s too late. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

For Medicare Patients, “The Doctor Is Out”

In a last-minute shocker, the Senate voted Thursday against postponing a scheduled 21-percent cut in Medicare reimbursement to physicians and other healthcare providers. Sixty senators were needed to end filibuster debate and stop the cuts under Senate rules. Fifty six voted in favor, while 40 opposed. There was no Republican support. (And, of course, no support from Senator Lieberman, who is a Republican in disguise.)

Another consequence of the vote is that tens of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits would not be eligible for more. In addition, new taxes on wealthy investment managers would not be imposed, along with an increase in liability taxes on oil companies, leading Democrats to contend that Republicans were protecting Wall Street and the oil industry, according to the New York Times.

“We’re not going to give up,” said Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader. “We know the American people only have us to depend on.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

No Go On A Doc Fix

The Senate has rejected the so-called “doc fix.” This means that doctors taking Medicare patients will now get 21 percent less pay for their work.

How’s that getting involved in politics working out for you guys? Not so good.

But there’s a larger issue here. Why do we keep trying to control healthcare costs by just mandating that less money be spent?

It’s failed for decades. But like a losing gambler convinced that if he just keeps doubling down he’ll finally come out ahead, people keep trying. For example, the New York Times reported on a study of the impact of pay cuts to doctors for Medicare patients with lung cancer. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Healthcare Reform: Digging Out Of The SGR Hole

Friday, the Senate — in a rare stroke of bipartisanship — voted by unanimous consent to reverse the 21 percent SGR cut and provide positive updates of 2.2 percent through November 2010. The legislation is fully paid for by offsets in other spending programs.

Unfortunately, though, the cut remains in effect and claims are being processed at reduced rates, because the House of Representatives has recessed for the weekend and won’t be back until Tuesday. At that time, I expect that the House will pass the Senate’s six-month reprieve and Medicare will make doctors “whole” for the period of time that the cut was in effect.

Not that any of this is a cause for celebration. In the meantime, claims still are being paid at reduced rates, creating havoc for physicians and patients. Kicking the can down the road for another six months doesn’t get us any closer to a permanent solution. It doesn’t lower the overall cost, now estimated at over $200 billion, to dig out of the SGR hole. It doesn’t provide the stability and reliability that physicians and patients need to view Medicare as a trusted partner. It does mean that we will be back again, this summer and fall, fighting to forestall another double-digit cut. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

No Doc Fix Vote Before Medicare Reimbursement Cut Kicks In

Senators visited their districts Friday and again today, so the earliest they could vote on the doc fix is tomorrow (6/15) — the day the 21.3 percent reimbursement cut takes effect.

Slowing down the process are the numerous amendments. For example, the duration of the fix is still being negotiated. And there are amendments such as redefining what makes up a rural health district. In California, some rural areas are seeing urban levels of patient demand, but giving more money to these counties is being seen as a kickback akin to others that were proposed during healthcare reform. (Part B News, The Hill)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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