KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Medicare Pay Cut For Doctors Still Looms At End Of Month

"A health care overhaul may now be in place, but a pay cut for Medicare reimbursements to physicians looms again at the end of the month, and the president-elect of the American Medical Association said Wednesday that doctors are continuing to pursue a permanent fix for the system," CQ Health Beat reports.

Cecil Wilson, a Florida physician, "appeared at a news conference with Senate Democratic leaders to tout the benefits of the health care overhaul law. The association had endorsed and strongly backed the overhaul. … Remaining undone, however, is the expensive remedy for a set formula that reduces physician payments under the Medicare system. A 21 percent cut looms by the end of the month unless lawmakers take action to stop it, and a congressional recess is scheduled to begin at the end of this week" (Norman, 3/24).

Modern Medicine interviewed Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a physician, who said "the federal government has mandated the doctor shortage. When the payment differential between primary care doctors and specialists averages about 300%, and that payment is based on Medicare rates, the result is a Medicare-created primary care doctor shortage. Medicare augmented much of the move to subspecialization through their payment practices. Again we have not allowed market forces to work. ... We need to let the market solve the shortage. But we won't do that. There are things in this health care bill to correct the situation, but the plan we need most is to pay doctors what they are worth rather than some fixed price that Medicare sets" (Reece, 3/25).

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