Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Medicare 'Fix' Adds $247B to Debt

"Democratic senators and a coalition of interest groups, including the American Medical Association, are pushing for a so-called "doctor fix" -- a $247 billion measure to block a planned 20 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement fees to doctors mandated by a 1997 federal law.

The "fix" would be paid by more federal borrowing for the seniors health care program already steep in debt. It has the support of the White House, but critics say that's only because it appears to reduce the price tag of President Obama's health care reform plan by $247 billion. 

Yet taxpayers will still be on the hook for the money.

On Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, along with the AMA, the AARP and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), warned that reduced payments scheduled for next year would lead to fewer doctors accepting Medicare patients or dropping their current ones.

Stabenow described the existing formula as a "kabuki dance" analogous to not paying mortgage payments hoping they will go away, but finding a bigger bill the following month.

The proposal would replace a formula from the 1997 Balanced Budget Act designed to hold down Medicare costs by setting yearly and cumulative spending targets. If actual spending exceeds the target for a given year, reimbursement rates for doctors are lowered the next year. Expenditures have exceeded projections for the past seven years and Congress has passed legislation to override the fix all seven years

The measure originally was expected to be part of Obama's sweeping health care reform legislation. But separating it will allow Democrats to prevent the measure from pushing health reform legislation over the $900 billion ceiling set by Obama. The president asserts that the 10-year plan will be paid in large part through savings in Medicare.

"Frankly, it just shows they're playing games with the numbers and its awful," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told Fox News, who added that the AMA is not representing doctors the way it should."

For the rest of the story click below.

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