Medicare Pay Cut For Docs Already Drawing Fire

Critics said the method used in the budget blueprint would cause serious problems. But some news reports indicate the inclusion of this Medicare "doc fix" would help build support within the physician community for the president's health care agenda.

Bloomberg: Physician Payment Cuts Would Be Averted In Shifting of U.S. Budget Funds
President Barack Obama would shift more than $50 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments to doctors away from states, insurers and drugmakers in the next decade to avert cuts in federal physician reimbursements. Obama's budget proposal for fiscal 2012 addresses reimbursements to doctors in Medicare, the U.S. program for the elderly and disabled. A formula Congress enacted in 1997 to limit growth in agency spending on physicians dictates cuts in doctors' fees that Congress has blocked annually since 2003 (Wayne, 2/14).

Kaiser Health News: Obama's Medicare 'Doc Fix' Under Fire
Critics quickly pounced on President Barack Obama's proposal to head off scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors, saying his funding method would cause serious problems. In his fiscal 2012 budget plan released Monday, Obama proposed a two-year, $54 billion solution to stop the payment cuts, which otherwise would go into effect Jan. 1. To finance what insiders call the "doc fix," the president would reduce waste, fraud and abuse and draw on savings from a variety of sources, including the states, drug makers – even power wheelchair retailers (Carey and Weaver, 2/14).

CQ HealthBeat: Budget Would Fund Two-Year Doc Fix By Targeting Waste, Drug Payments
The centerpiece of the Obama administration's fiscal 2012 budget proposal is the prevention of Medicare payment cuts to physicians, and it proposes an increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health by $745 million at a time when Republicans want to slash federal programs across the board. The budget was good news doctors and biomedical researchers as well as for hospitals, which avoided direct Medicare cuts — contrary to speculation that their payment updates would be trimmed beyond the levels in the health care overhaul law. But it was bad news for programs that train doctors in children's medical hospitals; the White House proposed zeroing-out funding for those accounts (Reichard and Norman, 2/14).

The Fiscal Times: Health Care Budget Focuses on 'Doc Fix'
Over the next ten years, the Health and Human Services Department would: reduce the threshold for taxing Medicaid providers in 2015 ($18.37 billion); crack down on high prescribers and utilizers of prescription drugs in Medicaid ... ($3.45 billion); recover erroneous payments made to insurers participating in the Medicare Advantage program ($6.16 billion); limit Medicaid reimbursement of durable medical equipment to Medicare rates ($6.4 billion); speed generic biologics to market ... ($2.34 billion); and prohibit brand and generic drug companies from delaying the availability of new generic drugs ...($8.79 billion) (Ross, 2/14).

The Hill: 'Doc Fix' Proposal Seeks To Build Support For Administration's Health Care Agenda
The White House on Monday unveiled a budget proposal that prevents cuts in Medicare payments to doctors while leaving other health care providers largely unscathed. The budget's two-year "doc fix" is seen as vital for building physician support for the health care reform law. One of the doctors' top priorities is the permanent repeal of Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate, which mandates payment cuts that lawmakers regularly scramble to postpone (Pecquet, 2/14).

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