Congressional leaders representing both parties in the House and Senate are expected to introduce legislation that would help more than 3,000 National Guard and Reserve physicians maintain their medical practices at home while they serve overseas. If passed, the legislation would exempt these physicians from a Medicare limitation that restricts to 60 days the amount of time another physician can substitute for a doctor who is on a leave of absence. Without this restriction, physicians could find replacements to manage their practices during their entire deployment period.
The House passed a temporary solution to this problem in May, and Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Sam Johnson (R-Texas) are expected to introduce a permanent fix in the House by the end of the month, Thompson said in a conference call. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) plan to introduce two bills with temporary and permanent fixes, respectively, in the Senate on Wednesday. The price tag is very modest for a $2.3 trillion health system; were talking about a few million dollars, Sen. Wyden said on the call, adding that the legislation calls for $8 million over a five-year period and $13 million over a 10-year period.
He also said it was encouraging that the temporary fix passed so quickly in the House earlier this year. We think with bipartisan support, we feel we can move these very quickly, he said of the bills. My sense is the president will sign this quickly(there is) no opposition on either side. -- by Jessica Zigmond