The Sacramento Bee: Congress confronts Medicare cuts to doctors’ fees

Even though there’s widespread support for bipartisan legislation to repair, once and for all, the broken Medicare formula — it threatens doctors with a 24 percent cut in their Medicare payments— there’s no agreement on how to bear the 10-year, $140 billion cost.

A bill in the GOP-controlled House that combines the so-called doc fix with a delay in imposing penalties on individuals who fail to purchase health care under the health care law is dead in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Without the individual mandate, fewer people would enroll in the program, generating $170 billion in savings over 10 years.

In the Senate, meanwhile, a bill to address the problem is likely to be killed by Republicans because it won’t be paid for. There has been discussion of claiming savings from reduced war spending, but Republicans and most budget experts regard that as a phony reduction.

That leaves Congress with little choice but to, yet again, address the outdated formula with a temporary fix. The formula dates to a 1997 budget law but soon proved to be fundamentally flawed. Congress has stepped in, usually for a year at a time, to prevent doctors from absorbing fee cuts.

 

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  • LAAAC is managed by St. Barnabas Senior Services; Funded, in part, by Archstone Foundation.
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