NPR reports on the delayed fix for Medicare physician payments, "Medicare's version of Groundhog Day."
"For the third time this year, Congress has just days to avert a scheduled 21 percent cut in pay to doctors who treat seniors and others on the Medicare program." Most people agree a cut of this size "would be devastating for Medicare and the patients it serves," but figuring out "how to solve the problem in anything except a stopgap way" continues to be perplexing.
In 1997, "Congress passed a balanced budget law that put the current formula in place determining how doctors will be paid. The idea was that if doctors as a group cost Medicare too much, their pay would be docked to make up the difference in future years. But James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association," says that the sustained growth rate "'penalizes [doctors] for doing the quality care you want.'" Congress' most recent delay of the rate cut is set to expire May 31 (Rovner, 5/6).