Another one-month 'doc-fix' patch is likely

Despite hard lobbying by the American Medical Association for Congress to pass a 13-month patch to the Sustainable Growth Rate formula--which would prevent doctors from seeing a 23 percent cut in their Medicare reimbursements--it's looking more and more like the month-to-month dance will continue. The Senate yesterday passed yet another one-month fix that, if approved by the House, will keep physicians from crippling cuts that are leading many to contemplate not taking Medicare patients, The Hill reports. 

AMA president Cecil Wilson, while pleased with the move, once again called for a longer fix to be made. "Delaying the 25 percent cut to the end of 2011 will inject some stability into the Medicare program for patients and physicians, and provide lawmakers with time to develop a long-term solution to the broken physician payment system," he said in a statement. While "the Senate listened to the voice of the American people and took quick action, there is more work to do to prevent a Medicare meltdown." 

A 20 percent cut to reimbursement of therapy services would cover the $1 billion cost of the short-term fix, which would be paid for over a 10 year time span. The 13-month fix desired by the AMA would cost roughly $15 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal Health Blog

Gail Wilensky, a senior fellow with Project HOPE--a group dedicated to "helping people help themselves"--wrote in Kaiser Health News prior to the news of the latest temporary fix that such practices are likely to continue, and that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services needs to launch more bundling pilot programs to "move away" from the current billing practices. 

"[P]hysicians should expect no more than short-term fixes to this perennial [and frustrating] problem," she wrote. "It's in everyone's best interest to get workable alternatives tried and in practice as soon as possible." 

To learn more:
- read this article in The Hill
- check out this Wall Street Journal Health Blog post
- here's Wilensky's full commentary in Kaiser Health News
- read the AMA's statement
- check out this Associated Press article