Friday, December 16, 2011

Quit Playing Politics with Medicare Patient's Health

By C. Bruce Malone, MD, 
Texas Medical Association President

Dr. Malone’s statement is regarding Congress’ inability to fix the flawed payment formula used to pay physicians who care for Medicare patients. Physicians are facing a 27.4-percent on Jan. 1, 2012. Instead of fixing the problem or stopping the cuts for a year or two, Congress is recommending ONLY a two-month patch. A short, temporary patch is devastating to physician’ practices and threatens access to care for millions of Medicare patients.

"Congress needs to quit playing politics with the health and lives of Texas’ seniors, military families, and people with disabilities. The idea that it can simply slap a two-month patch on an almost 30-percent cut to physicians’ Medicare payments is ludicrous. Frankly, it appears that Congress is doing everything in its power to destroy the viability of our medical practices.

"In 2010, Congress did the same thing. Instead of working together to fix the decade-old problem, lawmakers instituted one short-term patch after another — five, in total — to stop a 25-percent cut. It resulted in an administrative catastrophe for physician practices and the program itself by causing millions of dollars in bureaucratic waste and months to straighten out, resubmit, and reconcile claims. Yet hospitals, skilled nursing homes, home health agencies, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities all received Medicare pay increases because they are paid by a different formula.

"If Congress truly cares about the health of its senior and military constituents, its members must work together and come up with a long-term solution. TMA believes, at a minimum, Washington needs to fix the broken physician payment system first. If that means delaying additional payment updates for other providers, so be it. Physician participation is the most essential element to ensuring Medicare patients get timely access to appropriate medical care."

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