CBO: One-Year Medicare 'Doc Fix' To Cost $7B More Than Expected

A one-year patch to freeze Medicare physician reimbursement rates and avert a scheduled 26.5% reduction would cost nearly $7 billion more than previously estimated, according to new projections from the Congressional Budget Office, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/20).

The reduction -- which is the result of the sustainable growth rate formula -- is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013, unless Congress acts to prevent it. In recent years, Congress has approved mostly short-term payment patches to stave off the cuts.

According to CBO, delaying the cut and freezing the payments for one year would cost $25 billion, up from $18.5 billion in CBO's last estimate. A two-year patch would cost $41.5 billion, while freezing Medicare physician payment rates for a decade would cost nearly $244 billion, CBO said.

According to "Healthwatch," there is a chance that lawmakers might postpone the Medicare cut until March as part of a deal to avoid the mandated spending cuts under sequestration (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/20).
James Tucker
James E. Tucker, M.D. PHIAS In 1992 while studying at UCLA's School of Public Health managed care proponents assured us that if only physicians and hospitals would accept a 15% cut in reimbursement that everyone could be covered and we would make up the difference in volume. Needless to say, reimbursement cuts were more that 15%, we have more uninsured than ever before, and everyone is still trying to find ways to squeeze providers. Mr. Werner has much to learn about the way the system really works.
James Roache PharmD
One should probably ask Mr.Werner if he is; (a) currently a patient covered by a Medicare; and then, (2)is he totally satisfied with the current level of health care services he recieves from his physician provider? If he is not a beneficiary or a MEdicare provider himself, then as evidenced by his response, one should question seriously his understanding of the issue.
Clark Norwood
Yeah that should work out just fine! Instead of waiting in the little exam room for 30minutes to be seen by the Doctor for 5min we can wait for an hour to be seen by the PA for 3min. Not only that, the doc will need to bisect all of his exam rooms to create twice the waiting/exam areas so he can bump up the number of patients. But really it's ok to lose 26.5% in reimbursement because they can make it up in volume. Of course office staff(expense) will need to be increased to handle more patients. Longer office hours(expense) to handle more patients means longer hours or overtime for office personnel. Longer hours = more utilities(expense). At what point do the powers that be realize this is not going to work. And after all of this how many citizens will still have no insurance coverage? Is this what everything working well looks like? All of this and a 2.8% increase in income(all forms of income) tax. sarc/off
Ron Werner
Once Obamacare gives insurance to 36 million previously uninsured, doctors will be able to make up the 26.5% reduction by treating more patients. I think it will work so well that we could see a 50% or 75% reduction in the reimbursement rate.

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