While relieved that the scheduled 27.4% Medicare payment cut has been postponed for about two months, physician organizations were in no mood to celebrate the recent short-term deal that will extend payroll tax cuts and postpone slashing payments to doctors for two months.
Doc groups sound off on pay cut delay
"With this brief reprieve from the massive 27% cut to Medicare payments," said Dr. Peter Carmel, president of the American Medical Association, in a statement posted on the AMA website. "Congress now has to enact a real and fiscally responsible solution to this sorry cycle of scheduled cuts and short-term patches that compromises access to care for patients and drives up costs for taxpayers."
In a news release, Dr. Glen Stream, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, called the deal "a bitter holiday gift."
"Eleventh-hour legislation that fails to meet the needs of constituents is no way to conduct the nation's business," Stream said. "That is particularly true when millions of Americans' health and welfare are at stake. But last-minute, inadequate legislation is exactly what Congress has done with passage of an absurdly short reprieve from the 27.4% cut in physician payment mandated by the deeply flawed sustainable growth-rate formula for Medicare."
Similar sentiments were offered by Robert Doherty, senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy for the American College of Physicians.
"We'll be back with the same old, same old in 2012," Doherty wrote in his ACP Advocate blog. "More brinkmanship while holding doctors and patients hostage."
In a news release issued Dec. 19, ACP President Dr. Virginia Hood said a long-term solution, which would include replacing the sustainable growth-rate Medicare payment formula, was the only acceptable position, and that neither the two-month extension offered by the Senate nor the two-year plan proposed by the House was acceptable.
"Most physician practices are small businesses, and they can't stay open for business as usual if Medicare doesn't cover their practice costs," Hood said in the release. "Instead of replaying the tired old script of arguing over whether the cut should be delayed for two months or two years, or something in between, Congress must do the right thing and enact a permanent solution."
Last Dec. 15, President Barack Obama signed the Medical and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010, which delayed Medicare payment cuts for one year, under the theory that this would give Congress 12 months to work on a permanent replacement to the SGR. Before that legislation, Congress had passed six short-term "patches" over the previous 12 months.
This feeling was echoed by the American College of Surgeons in a Dec. 21 statement posted on its website.
Despite "having an entire year to address the 27.4% cut in Medicare reimbursement rates to physicians, Congress waited until the final two weeks of the year to engage in any type of significant discussion on the issue," the statement read. "Even then, Congress resorted to bitter partisan politics, talking past each other and leaving town without resolving the problem. America's seniors deserve better; our physicians and their staff deserve better. Access to the nation's healthcare system and the ability of physicians to provide care should not be viewed as political fodder."
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