The American Medical Association (AMA) has announced plans to back the $15 billion, 13-month extension of a bill that would protect physicians from a Medicare pay cut until 2012.
The `doc fix' bill, as it is called, will block impending pay cuts, the first of which is just a few weeks away. This would be a 23% cut in pay-a short-term fix mandated by Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, which links reimbursements rates to increases in GDP. The next pay cut would go into effect on January 1, bringing the total reduction in reimbursements to 25%.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that blocking these pay cuts is one of the president's main priorities. "The single biggest step we can take to strengthen Medicare for seniors and disabled Americans is to make sure these disruptive cuts don't take effect."
The doc fix bill is a temporary solution, however. The AMA plans to advocate for a longer-term fix that prevents the last-minute lobbying against pay cuts that have become common among doctors groups. The SGR formula is an integral part of the system. Because physician service rates have surpassed increases GDP, the formula has resulted in cuts in reimbursements every year for the majority of the last decade.
Both parties in Congress agree that the formula is flawed, but have failed to agree on a solution. Regardless, most feel that it is up to Congress to remedy the situation and stop the pay cuts.