Reid Wants Long-Term Medicare Doc Fix
It’s not just the filing deadline for unemployment benefits that’s set to arrive at the end of this month. Doctors treating Medicare patients are also scheduled to see an average pay cut of 21 percent beginning March 1, leaving no absence of questions about how the Democrats plan to deal with it.
Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that he wants to fix the Medicare pay formula “for as long as we can.”
“The doctors are right,” Reid said. “And it’s not just throwing something to the doctors to be nice to them.”
Unfortunately for doctors, “as long as we can” likely won’t be a very substantial span.
Recall that in October, the Senate shot down a plan to scrap the so-called sustainable growth rate formula altogether. The reason was simple: The price tag is upwards of $240 billion over 10 years, and the Democrats hadn’t proposed to pay for it with new revenues or spending cuts elsewhere. With voters well weary of deficit spending, it’s hard to imagine such a proposal passing the Senate four months closer to November’s midterm elections.
On the other hand, the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest doctors lobby, has grown tired of Congress applying short-term patches each year to prevent Medicare cuts to physicians. In a letter to lawmakers yesterday, the group warned that “kicking the can down the road with yet another short-term action magnifies the problem and makes it very difficult for physicians to continue caring for seniors and military families.” AMA is threatening to withhold its support for health reform unless it includes a longer-term doc fix.
So the choice isn’t a good one. Either the Democrats add a quarter-trillion dollars to the debt, or they risk the attacks of the powerful doctors’ lobby in what’s already certain to be a tough election year. Funny that the only option that doesn’t seem to be on the table is finding some way to pay the $240 billion.