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Medicare Reimbursement Cuts Should Be Blocked

Armen Hareyan's picture

With a Medicare reimbursement cut of 10%scheduled for physicians in January 2008, health care providers and their "well-armed lobbyists are pressing Democratic leaders to make the first changes to Medicare policy since they took control of Congress," CQ Weekly reports. The cut could have a wide impact because it is likely to affect reimbursement rates from insurers, who typically use government programs' payment levels as guidelines.

The American Medical Association has said Medicare reimbursement cuts could threaten quality of care,also noting that a survey this year of almost 9,000 doctors showed that60% of respondents would limit the number of new Medicare patients the ywould take if the cut goes into effect.

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Lobbying by doctors' groups and supporters is "having its intended effect on Democrats," according to CQ Weekly. The Senate Finance Committee is looking into a $20 billion package of policy changes that would block the scheduled payment cut and expand Medicare coverage. Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, "We will get a Medicare bill withphysician payment changes passed this year." However, Congress has to examine where it can find funding to block the cut because of tightbudget limits, which likely will lead to short-term solutions,according to CQ Weekly.

One possibility is cutting higher reimbursement rates for Medicare Advantage plans -- a solution that has been promoted through $1.5 million in advertising by doctors and AARP. The cut could save $54 billion, according to the groups. Lobbyists predict Congress will not reach a compromise on reimbursement rates until later this year, when "members and senators will be eager to hit the campaign trail," CQ Weekly reports (Adams, CQ Weekly, 10/1)

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.