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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Doctor Fix

So, President Obama has demanded that health care reform not add "even one penny to the deficit". At the same time, the president is struggling to keep as many of the stakeholders (read special interest groups) on board. Two very important groups are the doctors and their representing group, the American Medical Association. A so called pet project of the AMA is the "doctor fix". This is a plan to subsidize doctors that serve Medicare patients from facing drastic cuts to their fees. Instead, Reid is negotiating with the AMA and Senate and House leaders to rollback about 20% in Medicare reimbursement rates that are all part of a law passed in 1997.

In the face of objections from members of his own party, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is backing away from a plan to keep doctors who treat Medicare patients from experiencing drastic cuts in their annual federal reimbursements.

Democratic senators and a coalition of interest groups, including the American Medical Association, are pushing for a so-called "doctor fix" -- a 10-year $247 billion measure to block a planned 20 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement fees to doctors mandated by a 1997 federal law.

This plan would cost $247 billion over the next ten years. Here's the cynical part of the plan. Reid won't pay for rollback. Instead, he will simply borrow the money. Now, it appears as though that would break the president's pledge. Never fear. This is Washington D.C. You see this will be passed in its own bill. So, technically that's not part of health care reform. That this plan directly affects Medicare, a part of HEALTH CARE, is simply a minor point.

Fortunately, some sanity has been brought. First, the Republicans immediately came out to condemn this stunt. That's more political bluster than political power. More than that, it appears that Kent Conrad Senate Budget Committee Chairman has come out against this scheme as well. The bill is being pushed by Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

The whole thing would be amusing if all the money being thrown around hasn't made everyone numb. After all, what's another $247 billion? That seems to be what has happened after a $787 billion stimulus, $750 billion bailout and all the other spending. $247 billion no longer seems all that significant.

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