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Doctors’ Lobby ‘Deeply Disappointed’ With Dems’ Doc-Fix Plan, Will Take It Anyway

It’s not the permanent fix they were looking for, but the American Medical Association, the nation’s largest lobby of doctors, said yesterday that it supports the Democrats’ proposal to postpone a pay cut for Medicare doctors until 2014 — a temporary solution that kicks the problem down the road rather than solving it.

“An intervention to delay a looming Medicare physician payment cut will provide temporary stability for seniors and their physicians,” AMA President J. James Rohack said in a statement. “[B]ut the AMA is deeply disappointed that Congress will once again fail to permanently correct the Medicare physician payment formula that Republican and Democrat members of Congress, President Obama and policy experts have said should be repealed.”

Under current law, doctors treating Medicare patients will, on average, see a 21 percent pay cut beginning June 1. Yesterday, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced an enormous jobs package that also includes funding to prevent that cut from happening. (Many doctors have said that they couldn’t afford to see Medicare patients if the reduction was to take effect.)

Under the Democrats’ plan, Medicare doctors would see “reasonable” payment updates for the remainder of 2010 and through 2011. Then, in 2012 and 2013, “rates would continue to increase if spending growth on physician services is within reasonable limits, with an extra allowance for primary and preventive care,” according to a summary of the bill. Doctors would not see pay cuts in those years.

But in 2014, the current formula that’s dictating the 21 percent cut would go back into effect — a problem of which the AMA is only too well aware.

“Lawmakers must realize that the underlying policy problem will return larger than ever in 2014,” Rohack warned. “The pending Medicare proposal treats the symptoms – it’s not a cure for the disease.”

Of course, 2014 is several elections away. A number of these lawmakers may not even be around to have to deal with it.

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