Docs Send Warning to Dems: No More Temporary Doc-Fixes
In December, when the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest doctors lobby, endorsed the Senate’s plan for reforming health care, the backing came with a warning: The final bill must include a long-term fix to the flawed formula — dubbed the Sustainable Growth Rate, or SGR — that currently dictates Medicare payments to doctors. Although AMA was willing to accept Congress’ 60-day patch (passed in December) preventing a 21-percent cut in doc payments scheduled for January, the group vowed to oppose any temporary pay patches in the future.
“Congress must replace the SGR early next year,” AMA wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in December.
Unfortunately for Democrats, the future is now.
Because that 60-day patch expires at the end of February, Senate leaders are scrambling for ways to stave off those cuts and satisfy the powerful doctors lobby. So far, they aren’t doing a very good job.
Indeed, the $85 billion jobs package unveiled yesterday by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) — which included a seven-month SGR patch — met the immediate opposition of the AMA.
“It is deeply disappointing that the Senate is considering a short-term, band-aid approach through the pending jobs bill,” AMA said in a statement. “Kicking the can down the road with another short-term action increases the size of the cut and the cost of reform — and makes it very difficult for physicians to care for seniors and military families.”
Reid has reportedly stripped the Medicare language out of the jobs bill, to the satisfaction of both AMA and economists who want that package to focus exclusively on job-creating measures. How he plans to address that 21-percent cut before March 1 is another dilemma altogether.