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Congress Acts On Doc Fix: Music To Doctors’ Ears

Leading members of the Senate Finance Committee came to an agreement Thursday night on a six-month “doc fix,” paving the way for physicians to be reimbursed a little more for seeing Medicare patients instead of a lot less. (This is now separate from the rest of the legislative package it had been part of, which is still under debate.)

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that without passage, there’d be “havoc in America.” But the American Medical Association (AMA) continued its attack on anything less than a permanent solution. The AMA compared it to fiddling while Rome burns. What tune are members of Congress playing?

A) Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees
B) Doctor, Doctor! by the Thompson Twins
C) Time to Get Ill by the Beastie Boys

(The Hill, Politico, American Medical Association)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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*

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*

Primary Care Doctors And The Medicare Boycott

I saw this interesting article linked to from a blog about angry doctors dropping out of Medicare in Texas. As one who shares the universal annoyance at congress’ failure to fix the SGR for more than 30 days at a time, I was kind of cheered by this. That’s what it will take to get the system fixed — a grassroots, full-scale rejection of the system! Good for them. And the opening lines of the article were encouraging:

Texas doctors are opting out of Medicare at alarming rates, frustrated by reimbursement cuts they say make participation in government-funded care of seniors unaffordable.

An “alarming” rate. Wow. Cool. So how many is that, anyway?

More than 300 doctors have dropped the program in the last two years, including 50 in the first three months of 2010, according to data compiled by the Houston Chronicle. Texas Medical Association officials, who conducted the 2008 survey, said the numbers far exceeded their assumptions.

That’s 300, right? Hmm, not too shabby. Not exactly going to topple the state with that, but it’s a start.

Hey, I wonder how many doctors there are in Texas, anyway? I hear it’s a pretty big state, though I seem to recall it consists mostly of scrubland and swamp. Maybe there are only like 500 doctors in the state to start with. Something is tickling my head about Texas, though, I vaguely remember that they had some nice tort reform law a few years ago that I was pretty envious of. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

Doc Fix Blamed On Doctors

The American Medical Association will launch a multi-million-dollar ad campaign tomorrow to heighten pressure on Congress for a doc-fix bill. The American College of Physicians (ACP) reacted by calling for doctors to contact their member of Congress directly to let their voices be heard. Robert Centor, FACP, called for doctors to protest as well. (American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, DB’s Rants)

Meanwhile, a Florida medical society predicts a crisis in that senior-laden state. The society cited but did not name eight primary care doctors who’ve stopped accepting Medicare patients this year, and 12 cardiologists who left private practice for employment elsewhere because of already reduced payments. Unbelievably, business columnist Steven Pearlstein sorted through the issues around the doc fix, and concluded that it’s the docs that need fixing for paying themselves generous salaries. (Naples News, The Washington Post) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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