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Congress To Stop Scheduled Medicare Payment Cut

Armen Hareyan's picture

Anestimated 1,000 physicians on Tuesday are expected to attend a two-dayconference in Washington, D.C., to begin lobbying lawmakers to prevent a 10.6%Medicare fee cut scheduled to take effect July 1, TheHillreports. Since 2002, the formula used by CMS tocalculate physicians' fees for treating Medicare beneficiaries has requiredthat the government reduce the payments, but since 2003, Congress has passedlegislation to curb the cuts each year.

The American Medical Association, which is hosting the conference,and other medical societies say physicians already are not paid enough to treatMedicare beneficiaries and costs are rising. AMA Board Chair Edward Langston ina statement said, "Time is of the essence as this year's cut of 10.6%starts in July, and 60% of physicians say this cut will force them to limit thenumber of new Medicare patients they can treat." Despite warnings fromAMA, research by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and others has not found a shortageof physicians who will treat Medicare beneficiaries, The Hillreports.

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According to The Hill, "The options available [to delay thecuts] are not pretty, neither for Congress nor the doctors. They aren't cheap,either, even for the most modest, short-term fixes." A permanent fix wouldcost about $50 billion over five years, The Hill reports. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that curbing the cut for the rest of the year with noincrease to physician fees would cost $2.1 billion and, under the leastexpensive method, physicians would face a 15% cut in 2009. If Congress curbedthe cut from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2009, it would cost $8.1 billion andrequire a 20% cut in 2010.

According to The Hill, the group's lobbying expenditures reflectthe importance of stopping the fee cut. AMA last year spent $22 million onlobbying -- the most ever spent by the group for that purpose, according to theCenter for Responsive Politics (Young, The Hill, 3/31).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.