Senate Votes to Cut Medicare Payments to Doctors

| by Toni Brayer MD
Breaking news tonight that, in a last minute shocker, the Senate voted today against postponing a scheduled 21% cut in Medicare reimbursement to physicians and other health providers. 60 senators were needed to end filibuster debate and stop the cuts under Senate rules. 56 voted in favor, with 40 opposed. There was no Republican support. (And, of course, no support from Senator Lieberman, who is a Republican in disguise). Another consequence of the vote is that tens of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits would not be eligible for more.  In addition, new taxes on wealthy investment managers would not be imposed, along with an increase in liability taxes on oil companies, leading Democrats to contend that Republicans were protecting Wall Street and the oil industry, according to the New York Times.

“We’re not going to give up,” said Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader. “We know the American people only have us to depend on.”  

Medicare has been holding all claims from June until today, pending the action that was "supposed" to reverse this 21%, mind-blowing decrease. Now that the vote is in, they will pay the claims retroactively at the lower rate.

This is really bad news for seniors. 31% of  primary care physicians surveyed by the AMA said they would not accept new Medicare patients if the cuts went through. I predict much worse. A 21% cut is the death knell for doctors who have a lot of Medicare patients. Last month, Medicare paid me $84.00 for a 99213 office visit. That was already unsustainable, and the only way anyone stays in business is by seeing other patients with better payment. The new payment will be $66.36. Hello, bankruptcy court.

Stay tuned for an outcry from organized medicine, and a flight of physicians away from the Medicare program. The payment volatility of these government programs is leaving the health of our nation in critical condition.

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