Democrats and Republicans are touting a compromise that would repeal a flawed formula that determines Medicare physician payments, but for now it’s a deal in name only.
Lawmakers in both chambers are planning to introduce bipartisan legislation Thursday to repeal Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate formula, a physician payment plan Congress passed in 1997 in the hopes of limiting spending on the massive social program. Since 2003, however, Congress has passed short-term patches to stop the cuts, a maddening annual tradition known as the “doc fix” that has come at a cost of roughly $150 billion.
In an effort to end the annual exercise, the bills lawmakers are releasing Thursday would repeal the SGR formula and would institute five years of annual updates of 0.5 percent to Medicare physicians’ pay.
But despite the bills’ bipartisan backing, lawmakers have yet to agree on the thorniest issue of the doc fix: how to pay for it.
Neither bill includes measures to offset the spending — a hole that could sink it among the Hill’s budget hawks. And as Congress debates where to cut or where to get new revenue to offset the spending, the deal’s bipartisan support could splinter.
The Congressional Budget Office is slated to do a cost estimate of the measures Thursday afternoon, before they are formally unveiled.
If it were to pass, the compromise legislation as currently written would create a program and quality measures to evaluate performance and reward providers who improve health outcomes, and it adds incentives for care coordination for patients with chronic conditions. Additionally, it creates a Physician Compare website that Medicare beneficiaries can use to make decisions about providers, as well as to allow outside reviewers to evaluate quality of care.
This year’s round of physician reimbursement cuts is set to take effect in March, unless Congress acts.
- 1 A Look at Late-Term Abortion Restrictions, State by State
- 2 Why Four Justices Were Against the Supreme Court’s Huge Gay-Marriage Decision
- 3 In South Carolina, The Establishment Fights Back
- 4 The Pen, Phone, and Stray Voltage
- 5 John Kasich Dismisses Climate Change As ‘Some Theory That’s Not Proven’
What We're Following See More »
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.