I'm not a doctor, but I can understand how the threat of having your pay cut by up to 25% may be unsettling. That certainly was the case throughout 2010 as Congress put one temporary "patch" on top of another instead of figuring out a better way to pay physicians for treating Medicare beneficiaries.
Lame ducks move swiftly
Organized medicine did its part to get lawmakers' attention. In particular, Medical Group Management Association members were said to have written, called or e-mailed their representatives some 60,000 times on this issue. And, as each temporary patch was about to expire, the American Medical Association made sure Congress and the public knew how the pay cut would affect seniors covered by Medicare and military families covered by Tricare.
That said, given the then-gridlocked state of government, many were concerned that there would be no time for Congress to deal with physician pay when issues such as extending tax cuts and jobless benefits, approving a nuclear weapons treaty and ending "don't ask, don't tell" also were on the docket.
In the end, however, Congress was able to deal with those issues, as well holding off the physician pay cut for 12 months and exempting docs from the red flags anti-identify theft safeguards that creditors must follow. How did they do it?
They did it by resolving to move at a dizzying pace. The red-flags rule was introduced and read three times in one day before being passed by unanimous consent in the Senate without amendment. The House talked about it for about 40 minutes Dec. 7 before approving the measure with a voice vote.
This came right after taking pokes at Russia and China, with House Concurrent Resolution 267 congratulating Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 20 years of independence, and House Resolution 1717 congratulating imprisoned Chinese democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo on winning the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
Earlier in the day, they honored the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon, recognized the centennial of the city of Lilburn, Ga., and expressed support for designating 2011 as "World Veterinary Year."
During the month of December, President Barack Obama signed all sorts of legislation coming out of the "lame duck," post-election congressional session, including eight different bills dealing with the naming of post offices or federal buildings. I think we were all relieved when he signed the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010; and we probably all will remember where we were when the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 was finally enacted.
But my favorite new law might be the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (PDF). Not only does it have a clever acronym, CALM, but also it gives me an excuse to close this entry with a song that covers the same subject: John Prine's "Quit Hollerin' at Me."
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