opinion

What editorial writers are saying about Medicare physician pay

For years, Congress has delayed physician pay cuts mandated under Medicare's sustainable growth rate formula. And the bill keeps getting bigger.

Posted July 5, 2010.

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The question is how to ensure that physicians are paid enough to encourage them to see Medicare patients, yet still keep a rein on federal spending.

The doctor payment follies

The formula that is used to pay doctors who treat Medicare patients is producing increasingly absurd results. ... There will likely be no real solution until the American health care system moves away from unfettered fee-for-service payments that encourage doctors to perform unnecessary and costly tests and procedures and pays them instead for better management of a patient's care over time. New York Times, June 4

Piling on

No one thinks it's a good idea to suddenly slash physician payments by 21%. But if it's a good idea to keep reimbursement rates from falling, it's also a good idea to pay for the adjustment. The president insists he'll cover half the cost by "eliminating 50% of the waste, fraud and abuse in the system by 2012." Unless he finds a fairy godmother, though, that is not going to happen. So the consequence of blocking the payment cuts will be to enlarge the budget deficit and further burden future taxpayers. Chicago Tribune, June 14

Medicare needs reform, not gimmicks

Even without the automatic cuts, Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors have fallen about 20% below the government's conservative measure of inflation for medical practice costs over the last decade. ... Yet Congress continues to reject more fundamental reforms in favor of unworkable cost control gimmicks, such as this formula that calls for cuts in payments to doctors when Medicare spending increases above estimates. Daily News (Longview, Wash.), June 17

Dropping Medicare: Fix prices, lose services

[Physicians dropping Medicare] is what happens when government ignores the market and sets fixed prices for services. But it's more than that. It's what happens when government pretends it can afford services that are obviously unaffordable. Politicians should shrink eligibility for benefits or cut them. Instead, they cut provider payments. It is perverse and unsustainable. Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.) June 22

Medicare payment problem shows need for health reforms

The AMA, the AARP and those who depend on Medicare coverage are right to be concerned at the program's vulnerability to shifting political winds. As doctors lose confidence in the system, those who rely on the program are likely to suffer. Medicare is expected to benefit from the increased revenue and greater efficiency promised by health care reform. The new approach should also protect it from becoming an unintended casualty of political infighting. Journal Tribune (Biddeford, Maine) June 22

Seeing through Obama

[President] Obama urged Congress to pump billions of dollars in new spending into the Medicare program, in order to avoid cutting payments to doctors. Fine, conservatives reacted. Show us where spending will be cut in the federal budget to provide the additional Medicare money. There are no plans for such reductions, of course. ... Conservatives don't want to hurt the millions of Medicare patients who would be affected if additional funding is not provided. Obama and his liberal cronies have the conservatives in a no-win situation -- as they planned all along. Altoona (Pa.) Mirror, June 21

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