Knifing Doctors and Seniors

A jarring 94 percent of Americans are worried about a looming Medicare cut in reimbursements to doctors, the American Medical Association found in a poll it released Nov. 8. Unless Congress acts quickly, doctors caring for Medicare patients are looking at a 23 percent reduction in pay for treating seniors at the end of this month. On Jan. 1, an added cut is supposed to take effect.

It “will be catastrophic for seniors who rely on the Medicare program,” AMA President Cecil Wilson said at press conference at a physicians’ meeting in San Diego. Both seniors and physicians should be boiling mad at continual Congressional dithering on the Medicare reimbursement issue.

The AMA poll of 1,000 Americans revealed that 98 percent of respondents over age 65 said the anticipated drop in Medicare reimbursement was a “serious problem.” And 95 percent of seniors polled said that “Congress should act immediately.” The poll was taken two weeks ago. AMA President Wilson said, “Congress should take its marching orders from the American public before leaving for Thanksgiving break….Clearly physicians are grappling with a difficult decision, Wilson added. Can they continue to take Medicare patients if Congress allows a 26 percent cut to go through?”

In a news release, the AMA said: “Public concern about the impact in the cut on seniors is valid. Already one in five physicians say they have been forced to limit the number of Medicare patients in their practice because of the ongoing threat of cuts and the fact that the Medicare payment rates were already too low.”

Wilson added: “Without physicians, there is no care in Medicare. The roller coaster ride caused by Congress’ inability to stop the cut [for doctors] for at least a year is eroding physicians’ confidence and commitment to Medicare—right during Medicare’s open enrollment season for physicians. [Patients also can change health care plan coverage if they choose to from Nov. 15 until year end.]

There is growing concern that Medicare is becoming an unreliable payer. Congress must allay that fear by stopping the cut for at least 13 months, which will provide time to begin working on a permanent solution in the new year.”

The doctor payment trouble actually dates back to 1997. That’s when Congress passed a balanced budget law that put the payment formula in place. The notion then was that if doctors cost the Medicare system too much, their pay would be docked in future years to make up the difference. From the doctors’ viewpoint it’s not hard to see why they’re getting more reluctant to take on new Medicare patients, a NPR story last May pointed out.

“We haven’t had a raise in seven years,” said Joseph Stubbs, the immediate past president of the American College of Physicians, which represents about 100,000 internists.

The Obama Administration Nov. 8 expressed support for legislation that would postpone for 13 months the scheduled cuts to Medicare reimbursements. The AMA has previously reported that one in five doctors were limiting the number of Medicare patients  they would treat because of reimbursement uncertainties. The organization also urged Congress to pass the legislation and to include a 1 percent increase in doctor reimbursements.

The 13-month fix would cost an estimated $17 to $20 billion, CQ HealthBeat reported Nov. 9. It added that Senate aides thought lawmakers’ hesitation on budget offsets to the expenditure makes passage of the 13-month fix by Thanksgiving unlikely.

This spring when Congress was working to cobble together the massive health care entitlement, the only way its cost could come near what Obama sought was to leave out the doc fix. But what’s a little crooked bookkeeping among politicians?

Democrat leaders struggled in June to put together a stand-alone doc fix bill to last for six months. Both chambers passed bills. But Nancy Pelosi decided she didn’t like the Senate version. So, a bill finally was passed for a six month reprieve until November.

“There’s a growing lack of confidence in [government’s] ability to deliver on promises to Medicare patients,” charged Robert Doherty, senior vice president for government affairs for the American College of Physicians. There’s a lot of finger pointing going on, but “physicians trying to deliver the best care possible don’t care who’s at fault.”

A hypocritical AARP, which went against the will of seniors and joined in the battle to enact ObamaCare, joined the AMA in an advertisement in January urging the Senate to mend the flawed physician-payment formula. Since AARP’s support of the health law, many seniors have cut up their membership cards.

Forty million American households have Medicare recipients. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in its annual book explaining and promoting Medicare said the Obamacare law is full of “exciting new changes to improve your health care now and in the future.”

But Medicare will have a dismal future if there aren’t enough doctors to treat the tide of older baby-boom Americans sweeping toward the long-promised arms of Medicare.

  • Cuban Refugee

    Now that the U.S. is part of the New World Order, the global over–population is a concern to the elites who decide who lives and dies. Baby boomers are at the descending end of the Bell curve on the graph formulated as a guide to determine who will receive medical care and who will be expendable. An entire generation will have been murdered as surely as if they were stuffed into cattle cars to be extinguished at the terminus; among those who will suffer lack of care and subsequent death will be the useful idiots who allowed it to happen — the idealistic, but blind, ones who voted for Hope and Change, without a clue as to what "change" entailed, and opened wide the door to disaster.

  • kim segar

    It is another way to rid the world of the seniors, like obama said,over 50 is to go without and keep it for the young. the very people who built this country are usless to these evil good for nothings..I say, send in the Army, and lock up Wash DC who trashes our seniors and our economy and has thrown out the Constitution that protects all of us if inforced. I ripped up the AARP card too, no good in the first place. America best throw them out, they don't care that WE THE PEOPLE are the GOVERNMENT..they are to serve us, but just pocket our money and spend it on foolish BS on vactions and all else. just gave themselves a double ammount a year and then said freeze it for gov and state , after the fact. they are out of control , because we let money is the root of all evil..the fEDS control congress, it has to stop..someday all will face this destruction of survival..take a look around, 30 million ilegals get everything and even SS who never spent a dine into it. and gov..was never to touch our pot of money for SS, but now it is in their pockets and they will fight to the death to keep it..

  • rtk_51

    Welcome to the world of the left, how long is it going to take them to say that you have to pay into Social Security all you life but must commit suicide when you reach retirement age?

  • Spider

    Didn't Time magazine say "We are all socialists now" ? Now people are beginning to understant just what that really means, misery and despair. Those who voted for Obama either have learned or will soon learn that voting doesn't just have bennifits but also consequences.

  • bubba4

    Grandpa Tait wants lower taxes for himself and to privatize a system he doesn't need. Where are grandpa tait's investments…who is paying him right now?

    I think Tait is looking out for number one. Man, Tait's generation has sure screwed the pooch. I'll be glad to see it go. Of course tait has excellent healthcare so he might outlive us all with his head in a jar.

  • greatj

    I do not know one senior citizen on 'Social Security' who is going to vote for Obama and the Democratic party anymore.Frankly they all hate Obama for not giving any Social Security increases last year and Obama said no increases for 2011.Obama and the Democratic Senator in New York Schumer said theirs no inflation.This is a big lie.Everything has gone up in price;fruits,vegetables,transportation,restaurants,gas,rents.Nothing has stayed the same.George Bush in his last year in office gave seniors 5.8% increase.Obama gives his union friends and all the Democratic party friends what ever they want.Obama is a disgrace.

  • Dennis Menzer

    Here we are….looking at Obama (who wouldn't make a pimple on a President's ass) looking at the beginning of one of his greatest achievements!!!! "Obamascare" The Obama administration will destroy this nation if if not tied down!!! His whole being is READY, FIRE, AIM…….pray that he is removed before 2012, how does not matter.,