Headline News

'Doc Fix' Goes Another Round









     
  
  

WASHINGTON — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman
Sander Levin, D-Mich., introduced a bill March 16 that would again
delay a 21 percent cut
in Medicare physician payments
.

Called the Continuing Extension Act of 2010 (H.R. 4213), the
bill would head off the whopping reimbursement cut until April
30.

The cut was originally scheduled to be implemented Jan. 1, 2010,
but has been pushed back in a series of congressional delays.
Presently, the docs' pay has been frozen until the end of
March.

Earlier this month, the Senate approved a delay of the cut until
Oct. 1. But according to press reports, the House won't act on its
bill before April 1, so another delay was needed to keep the cut
from taking effect.

The American Medical Association and other physician groups have
been urging Congress to revise Medicare's current "sustainable
growth rate," or SGR, payment formula — which has resulted in
annual pay decreases for physicians — in favor of a permanent
fix.

Following the Senate's latest action, J. James Rohack, MD,
president of the American Medical Association, issued a statement
with the following caution:

"Physicians cannot keep their practice doors open to all
Medicare patients without clear direction from Congress on Medicare
payment rates. Already, Medicare payment rates are far below the
costs of providing patient care, and physicians are left wondering
how they can continue to run a medical practice if Congress does
not inject security and stability into the Medicare
program.

"Short-term actions are the wrong answer to a long-term
problem. These band-aid fixes have only served to increase the size
of the cuts and the cost of reform … It's time to fix the
formula and ensure that seniors can count on Medicare now and for
years to come."

Physicians dropping out of Medicare could be only part of the
problem for Congress and the Obama administration.

According to a survey that hit the headlines Tuesday as reported
by CNSNews.com, almost a third of the nation's physicians could
leave their practices altogether if current versions of health care
reform become law.

The survey, conducted by medical recruiter The Medicus Firm and
published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed
29 percent of the nearly 1,200 participating physicians said they
would either quit the medical profession or retire early if current
health reform legislation becomes law. Of primary care physicians
(family medicine and internal medicine) in the survey, 46 percent
said the passing of health reform "will either force them out of
medicine or make them want to leave medicine."