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AMA Blasts House for Not Voting on Doc Pay Cut

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 29, 2010

As Congress left the Capitol for a two-week holiday over the weekend, the American Medical Association took the occasion to blast lawmakers for the "unconscionable" action of not acting on the "doc fix"—slated to expire on April 1.

Earlier this month, the Senate voted to delay the physician pay cut of 21.2% in Medicare reimbursement until Oct. 1. But the House did not take up the action, and as a result, the previous decisions by both chambers still stand. And that's April 1.

Some congressional officials have said it is likely that Congress may decide on the bill retroactively. The House doesn't vote again on legislation until April 13, according to the House calendar.

But J. James Rohack, MD, president of the AMA, said in a statement released on Friday, "It is unconscionable for elected officials to play politics with seniors and military families who rely on them to preserve their ability to see the physician of their choice."

"Members of Congress eager to spend a two-week holiday with their families have left America's military families and seniors to fend for themselves through their inaction on a known threat to the Medicare and TRICARE programs," Rohack stated. "On April 1, a 21% Medicare cut to physicians begins. Congress' failure to act on permanent repeal of the broken Medicare physician payment formula has put access to healthcare for seniors and military families in jeopardy."

The physician pay cut issue has been dependent continually on congressional action, much to the consternation of physicians. On Dec. 19, Congress voted to delay the scheduled payment cut until March 1. Both houses then extended it a month.

Specifically, the Medicare payments were scheduled to be cut across the board in accordance with the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.

The proposed delay ostensibly is to give Congress time to adjust the SGR formula. SGR links Part B Medicare reimbursement to the gross domestic product. The formula has led to proposed large cuts annually, which physicians have successfully worked to delay.


Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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