• The “Doc Fix” Is Another Reason To Reform Medicare Now

    Washington is in a big fight over something called “Doc Fix.”

    Legislation is pending that would repeal scheduled cuts to doctor reimbursements in the treatment of Medicare patients.  The legislation would also make two important reforms to entitlement programs as part of the deal to offset the on the books cost of repealing the cuts.

    The Hill describes the issue as follows: “The bill would repeal a Medicare formula known as the sustainable growth rate (SGR), which calculates payments to doctors. In a crucial first step toward what would be a once-in-a-generation idea, bipartisan bills were introduced in both the House and Senate.”

    The Hill reported that Speaker of the House John Boehner is close to a deal that would eliminate scheduled cuts to the Medicare Reimbursement formula and he has added changes to existing law that will save the taxpayers money.

    Sources on Capitol Hill tell Cloakroom Confidential that this fight may end up being solved at the last minute and just before Congress recesses for the Easter holiday. The deadline to act is next Tuesday, but it is difficult to see how Congress gets this controversial issue completed before the end of March.

    Although the “Doc Fix” may be somewhat controversial, Congress made a habit of suspending this cut to doctors annually. This is a cut from the days of President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich that never happened. The cuts have been put off by Congress 17 times in the past.

    One issue that should make conservatives happy is this “Doc Fix” is forcing Congress to make two important reforms. The first is to make wealthier Medicare patients pay higher premiums that reflect more accurately what they can pay. The second is a reform on Medigap that will make sure that individuals have market forces put a downward pressure on prices.

    Grace Marie Turner describes this idea in Forbes as follows: “Trimming the private ‘Medigap’ plans that about one in five seniors purchase to fill some of the holes in regular Medicare. Medigap plans hide the cost of excessive consumption of health care services and push the added costs onto taxpayers. First-dollar Medigap plans would be trimmed under the proposed legislation.”

    Sounds complicated, yet the important concept is that this is a reform that will save taxpayers from added cost.

    Cuts to doctors kick at the end of March if Congress does nothing, so it is important for Congress to take action if they intend on addressing these issues. The practical impact of these cuts going into effect would not be for doctors to accept the cuts thereby saving taxpayer dollars; the impact would be that doctors would just stop treating these patients and they would effectively lose their Medicare coverage.

    Cloakroom Confidential

    Cloakroom Confidential was a longtime Capitol Hill staffer and insider who has contacts in the House and Senate at the highest levels.

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