Docs, providers would make sacrifices under deficit-reduction scheme

A bipartisan White House panel is calling for belt-tightening measures to cut the deficit by $4 trillion through 2020. Proposed mandatory cuts to healthcare spending would include paying doctors and other providers less, according to the 50-page proposal developed by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

To defray the cost of the doc fix, in the medium term, the panel asks doctors and other providers to take responsibility for the growth in healthcare costs. Offsets would include:

  • Paying doctors and other providers less, improving efficiency and rewarding quality by speeding up payment reforms.
  • Paying lawyers less and cutting the cost of defensive medicine by adopting comprehensive tort reform that would cap non-economic and punitive damages.
  • Expanding cost-sharing in Medicare.
  • Fortifying the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

"America cannot be great if we go broke," the commission's proposal says. "If the U.S. fails to stabilize and cut the national debt, we could spend $1 trillion a year in interest alone by 2020."

Providers already are gearing up for a fight against belt-tightening measures that they see as draconian. A press release issued by the American Hospital Association noted that the draft proposal "could jeopardize hospital services for vulnerable patients and communities, particularly given that hospitals already face $155 billion in cuts as part of hearth reform." AHA also objects to the proposal that hospitals be subject to an independent payment advisory board that sets Medicare payment rates.

The Alliance of Specialty Medicine, an organization of national medical societies, also expressed concerns about the proposal to strengthen the Independent Payment Advisory Board--which aims to cut Medicare spending--because such cuts would endanger seniors' access to doctors and lead to care rationing.

To learn more:
- read the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform proposal
- here's the Alliance for Specialty Medicine's press release
- here's the AHA press release
- read The Hill's article
- here's the Wall Street Journal article