Doctors Brace for Medicare Pay Cuts in December 2010 « Health Insurance Advisory

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Doctors Brace for Medicare Pay Cuts in December 2010

Author: Allan Z - Founder Editor | Nov 27 2010 | Medicare

Many doctors will stop taking Medicare cases if Congress allows looming cuts to go through.  The scheduled reduction in reimbursement rates have raised alarms that real damage to Medicare could result if the lame-duck Congress winds up in a partisan standoff and fails to act by Dec. 1, 2010.  That’s when an initial 23 percent reduction would hit.

According to the Associated Press neither Democrats nor newly empowered Republicans want the sudden cuts, but there’s no consensus on how to stave them off.  The debate over high deficits complicates matters, since every penny going to doctors will probably have to come from cuts elsewhere. A reprieve of a few months may be the likeliest outcome. That may not reassure doctors.

Doctors have muddled through with temporary reprieves for years.  This time, medical groups estimate that as many as two-thirds of doctors would stop taking new Medicare patients, throwing the government run health program for 46 million older and disabled people into turmoil just when the first Baby Boomers will become eligible.  Health care for military service members, known as Tricare, would be jeopardized because the payments are tied to Medicare.

There’s widespread recognition the way Medicare pays doctors is flawed because it rewards sheer volume of services, not quality results.  But there’s no agreement on a better way.  So in the 1990s lawmakers devised a formula for cuts as an automatic braking system to keep Medicare humming along at a sustainable growth rate.  Except every time costs went up, they hit the override button. Repealing the formula now would cost more than $280 billion over 10 years.

The American Medical Association is calling for a 13-month reprieve that would give Congress time to work on a new payment system; the administration supports that approach.

The new healthcare reform law which was enacted March 23, 2010, calls for sweeping changes to the nation’s health insurance market over a four year period.  If you are eligible for or currently covered under Medicare and looking for inexpensive dental insurance, visit healthinsuranceadvisory.org.   We can help you secure low cost dental insurance and a prescription drug card if you pay out of pocket for medications.

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