So much for using Medicare cuts in waste and fraud to pay for Obama's government health care reform
For the third time this year, Congress is scrambling to stave off a hefty pay cut to doctors treating Medicare patients — even as the Obama administration mails out a glossy brochure to reassure seniors the health care program is on solid ground.
The 21.3 percent cut will take effect June 1 unless Congress intervenes in the next few days. Recurring uncertainty over Medicare fees is making doctors take a hard look at their participation in a program considered a bedrock of middle-class retirement security.
If the problem is allowed to fester, it could undermine key goals of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, which envisions using Medicare to test ideas for improving the quality of care for all Americans. Doubts about Medicare's stability can also create political problems for Democrats in the fall elections, since polls show seniors are worried about the impact of the remake on their own care.
"We will not have that cut," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed Wednesday.
How lawmakers will resolve the problem is unclear. Initially, Democrats had talked about a five-year fix, then three years. Now leaders are proposing postponement through the end of 2011. Doing away with the cuts altogether would be expensive, an estimated $200 billion or more over 10 years. That's what the American Medical Association wants. . . .
Some longtime Medicare advocates fault Congress and the Obama administration for not dealing with the doctor cuts during the marathon health care overhaul debate. That would have pushed the cost of the legislation above the $1 trillion, 10-year limit Obama set.
Economist Marilyn Moon, a former Medicare trustee, said the health care legislation's $500 billion in cuts to hospitals, insurers and other Medicare providers should have been earmarked to deal with doctor fees first, with anything left over used to help the uninsured.
"They should have used Medicare dollars to fix this," said Moon, who helped oversee program finances from 1995-2000. "It's irresponsible" that the health care law left such a major issue unresolved, she said, while at the same time claiming to reduce the federal deficit. . . .
I got news for those that think that the problem would have been solved if they had only earmarked the cuts for hospitals.