HHS' fiscal 2011 budget request includes an adjustment totaling $371 billion to stave off Medicare cuts to physicians over the next 10 years.
$371 billion marked to stave off doc pay cuts
Medicare's sustainable growth-rate, or SGR, formula for paying doctors is based on the economy's health, and has threatened payment cuts to physicians every year since 2003. Congress has stepped in each time to enact a temporary fix so that doctors wouldn't experience additional reductions to their Medicare payments, a move that racks up debt and adds to the frustrations of the medical lobby, which seeks a more permanent fix.
The industry faces a looming 21.2% cut to their payments on March 1 unless lawmakers intervene once again.
The president's budget assumes that Congress will once again intervene, “so our budget is based on a zero (percent) growth rate for physicians” over 10 years, and not the 21.2% cut for Medicare services scheduled for the end of the month, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said during a news briefing to release her department's $911 billion budget proposal.
No specific offsets were included in the budget request to pay for this specific adjustment, however, meaning the $371 billion “would be rolled into the budget baseline and add to deficit spending,” explained Alexander Vachon, a Washington-based healthcare consultant.
President Barack Obama's fiscal 2010 budget blueprint included a similar adjustment of $311 billion to account for Medicare physician payment updates at zero percent vs. the scheduled negative updates, over 10 years.
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