(Story updated with additional comment at 5:40 p.m. ET.)
Doctors are trying to stoke a rebellion against the doc fix.
A one-year extension of the doc-fix patch passed the House by voice vote Thursday, and so efforts to derail the measure now move to the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has reportedly scheduled a vote for Monday.
The American Medical Association issued a statement from President Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven saying the association “is extremely disappointed in today's House action to give up on SGR repeal. There was bipartisan, bicameral support for reform this year, yet too many in Congress lacked the courage and wherewithal to permanently fix Medicare to improve care for patients and provide greater certainty for physician practices. Congressional leadership had to resort to trickery to pass an SGR patch that was opposed by physicians.”
Dr. Charles Mick, an orthopedic surgeon from Northampton, Mass., and a past president of the North American Spine Society, expressed disappointment that congressional leaders once again opted for a patch. “All of us had been very optimistic that this was the best chance in many years for a permanent fix to the SGR problem,” he said.
Now that the House has acted, the chances of heading off the deal appear remote. But Mick is not giving up hope. “We will be putting pressure on the Senate to hopefully come up with a proposal,” he said. “Whether that will occur or not we don't know.”
New Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had issued a statement when the doc-fix deal initially surfaced Wednesday, blasting the patch. “My choice is to end the status quo in Medicare by permanently repealing and replacing the SGR,” Wyden said. “There is no reason to wait.”
Most observers say Wyden will still attempt to go through the motions of passing a permanent fix bill in the coming days. Staff from his office have indicated that he is “very open” to using Overseas Contingency Operations funding to cover the roughly $180 billion cost over a decade.
But with a deal already cooked between House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—and seemingly no stomach for reopening the issue on the House side—that means Wyden will have to acquiesce.
Joseph Antos, a healthcare policy expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, suggests that despite their current opposition, doctors will accept it as the best deal they could get under the circumstances. “Of course they're going to complain, because it doesn't just hand them money,” Antos said. “But they have nothing to complain about.”