December 13, 2013
Changes to Medicare ‘doc fix’ golden opportunity if it’s paid for
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., believes efforts in the Senate Finance Committee to repeal and replace the current system that Medicare uses to reimburse physicians can work for both our medical providers and seniors only if there can be an agreement on how to pay for it.
The Finance Committee reported out its proposal yesterday after it was approved on a voice vote. Enzi offered amendments to the legislation designed to make Medicare payments to doctors fair for doctors and sustainable for the government. The proposal’s goal is to expand health services to seniors and lower costs, while removing regulatory burdens and emphasize newer technology to provide care.
The payment mechanism under scrutiny is known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). It’s a formula that ties Medicare physician payments to economic growth and the overall growth in health care costs. Once reimbursement rates started to decline, the threat of doctors not taking Medicare patients lead Congress to passing numerous short-term “doc fixes” that offset the difference between current rates and the scheduled cuts.
“Our doctors and health care providers need to have some sense of certainty that they’ll get paid for taking Medicare patients and at what rate,” said Enzi. “Medicare beneficiaries need to know they will still be able to see their doctors. President Obama said there would be a ‘doc fix’ in Obamacare. Instead, doctors and even their patients have been left at the mercy of short-term patches, while bipartisan plans to fix Medicare reimbursements have largely been ignored. It’s a disservice to our doctors and all of those who rely on their care.”
Sen. Enzi filed eight amendments to improve access to doctors, reduce regulatory burdens, and improve doctor payments. His amendment with Senator Carper (D-Del.), for example, allows physician assistants to provide and manage hospice care for Medicare beneficiaries. This idea was adopted by the committee.