The American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons and about a half-dozen more physician groups met with Senate and White House leaders to support a legislative effort to wipe away the current Medicare payment formula.
Doc groups meet with lawmakers, White House leaders
Under legislation introduced Tuesday night, the Sustainable Growth Rate formula—which annually accounts for steep, double-digit physician pay cuts—would be removed, according to a source who attended the meeting. At some point, a new payment formula would be implemented.
Congress has thwarted the cuts on a regular basis, but it does so at a cost. The price tag for scrapping the system as a whole could top $230 billion, according to the source, which is why the measure is expected to move separate of a broader health reform effort that advanced yesterday. A slight physician pay increase that's part of the reform package, however, would stay in place for 2010.
The bill, drafted by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), would essentially freeze payments under the Medicare physician fee schedule. A vote could come as early as next week, sources have indicated.
“It is important we get this right, we fix what has been a very flawed system,” Stabenow said. “As we go into the healthcare reform debate, I think it is important we get this done right first so every physician understands we are not going to put them in this position year after year after year.”
Lobbyists met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-Nevada), Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.). All three lawmakers are engaged in melding together two separate health reform bills.
White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle also attended the meeting on Capitol Hill.
“It's just an ongoing, lingering issue,” the source said. “And if you don't resolve it, and it remains there, the opportunity for other things becomes questionable.”
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