For the fourth time in six months, Democrats’ inability to properly manage the Medicare program is causing doctors to confront a 21 percent cut in their Medicare reimbursement rates. In fact, this cut went into effect on June 1st, forcing Medicare to pay claims for physician services with the 21 percent cut. In practical terms, this means that for a standard office visit, physicians are now being paid $8 less than they received in 2007. This is unacceptable and irresponsible.
As a result of the Democrats’ failure to address this issue in a timely manner, tens of millions of taxpayer rdollars will be required to reprocess these claims and send new checks to doctors, all because the Majority couldn’t finish its work on time.
Physician practices, like most small businesses, are hurt by this dereliction of duty: Dr. Joel Bolen from Montgomery, Alabama said about the delayed payments: “we have already eliminated one staff position and that has resulted in a major reduction in some services.”
Dr. Jen Brull from Plainville, Kansas had to juggle a $10,000 temporary drop in revenue while claims were held up, when payments were delayed for 15 days in April of this year, a major stress on a small practice.
Senior citizens have been hurt as well. Earlier this week, one of my constituents visited my office in Redding, California, to share his story. Hisdoctor is not accepting any more Medicare patients until Congress deals with the 21 percent cut. As a result, he has been forced to postpone an essential surgery.
The new President of the American Medical Association, Dr. Cecil Wilson, said “this is no way to run a major health coverage program – already the instability caused by repeated short-term delays is taking its toll.” And the newspaper Politico declared that “never before has Congress allowed such a deep Medicare cut to go into effect at this scale.” The legislation before us provides physicians with a six-month reprieve of the 21 percent cut by providing them a 2.2 percent rate increase through November.
But after November, the 21 percent cut returns, and one month after that the cut goes even deeper, totaling 26 percent in January. Perhaps my friends on the other side of the aisle believe this will be someone else’s problem in December. Mr. Speaker, ironically, the bill before us today uses the same bill number as the Democrats’ health bill that passed the House in November of last year.
It’s ironic because Republicans argued for months that the Democrats should address the flawed Medicare physician payment formula in their health overhaul. After all, if they could find more than one-half trillion dollars to cuts to Medicare, you think they could find a couple dollars to fix the SGR.
Except they didn’t, allowing them to shield the true cost of their trillion dollar government takeover of health care. It is one of the many reasons we should replace that flawed law with reform Americans can afford, and then we can address a true, long-term fix for our doctors.