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Medicare Fix Remains Elusive

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, August 1, 2012

For about 10 years now Congress has stood firm in refusing to enact any cuts to physician reimbursements, choosing instead to defer the cuts for one or two years at a time. That was okay in the pre debt-reduction era, but now everyone seems to want Congress to actually do something. Will that happen?

The House likes to hold hearings about healthcare. It's good theater, but sometimes not much more.

Last month a House committee gathered a group of physician representatives to talk about the SGR formula and potential solutions. It seemed promising, and might have been, if Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) hadn't announced at the outset that he would introduce legislation to once again delay implementation of the SGR formula.

He wants to delay the cuts to physician services for another year to give the Congress time to "fully vet and evaluate" SGR replacement proposals. Huh? Wasn't that the purpose of all the recent hearings and discussions? It doesn't look like anything serious will happen there for a long time.

Medicare discussions on the Senate side just seem a lot more purposeful in seeking a real solution. Everyone should be paying attention to a series of roundtable discussions hosted by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who is the chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. What seems to be taking place there is an honest, roll-up-our-sleeves-and-get-to-work effort from Republicans as well as Democrats.

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