We knew we were being too hopeful on a peaceful, bipartisan ending to the “doc fix” this year! And sure enough, the Medicare gods are making sure that we have our full serving of last-minute wrangling over the Medicare “doc fix” yet again….
Speaker of the House John Boehner has shot down a short-term, bipartisan deal which would have continued current Medicare payments to doctors and extended the payroll tax break for middle-class Americans. The two-month extension had passed the Senate 89 to 10, but Boehner is calling on Congress to work on a year-long extension instead of “kicking the can down the road.” “It’s time to just stop, do our work, resolve the differences and extend this for one year,” Mr. Boehner said. “How can you have tax policy for two months?”
In case you haven’t been through our now Medicare “doc fix” annual rite of passage, Medicare payment rates to doctors will be slashed 27% come the first of the year, unless lawmakers come to an agreement on maintaining current reimbursement levels. There has been widespread concern that if the Medicare cuts go into effect, Medicare patients will experience a sharp drop in the number of doctors who will be willing to see them and severe shortages in medical treatment.
Although Congress was able to intervene and put into place temporary “doc fixes” which prevented similar cuts to from going into effect last year, Congress still has to approve yet another “doc fix” if they want to prevent the cuts from going into effect at the end of the year. The short-term deal that Boehner just rejected had seemed like a sure thing, but now it’s a very real possibility that another “doc fix” will not pass before the end of the year.
In case Congress doesn’t reach a longer-term answer for the Medicare cuts this year, here are some things to keep in mind while any answers are being hammered out:
What impact will this have on seniors? Unfortunately, if the Medicare payment cuts go into effect, the most likely effect is that many doctors may begin turning away Medicare patients and/or severely restricting the number of Medicare patients that they take. Recent cuts in Medicaid payments to doctors have resulted in severe shortages in doctors who will accept Medicaid patients in some areas of the country. Although the new rules include payment incentives for primary care physicians (PCPs) and general surgeons in areas with doctor shortages, unfortunately, some expect a similar result for Medicare.
What can you do? Find out from your doctor whether he or she expects to continue seeing Medicare patients if the cuts go into effect. If not, you might consider starting to shop around for a new physician who will still accept Medicare payments. Even if your doctor plans to continuing to see Medicare patients, we think it’s a good idea to make sure that you schedule your appointments as far in advance as possible in case he or she starts cutting back on the time they spend with seniors.
Do you think Congress will be able to pass something more permanent this year? Tell us about it at the MyHealthCafe.com Forums.
- President Obama Signs the Year-Long Medicare “Doc Fix” Into Law; Cuts to Medicare Doctors’ Pay Postponed Again
- Senate Passes One Month Medicare “Doc Fix,” House Must Still Approve to Delay Medicare Cuts
- Congress Passes the One Month “Doc Fix,” Next Year’s Medicare Payments Still Unknown
- Senate Approves The Year-Long Medicare “Doc Fix,” House Approval Next
- Medicare: Another Year, Another Scramble for a “Doc Fix”