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Monday, June 16, 2008

MEDICARE FIX STILL BREATHING

It was, and still is, our best bet to stop the 10.6-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare payment scheduled for July 1. But severe partisan politics in Washington prevented the U.S. Senate from moving forward with Senate Bill 3101. A vote to take up the measure failed (54 to 39), short of the three-fifths majority needed to stop debate and take action on it. “Watching Congress work its will is, more often than not, frustrating and mind-boggling when you are faced daily with the challenges of caring for your patients,” said TMA President Josie Williams, MD. The bill would have maintained current Medicare payment rates for the rest of the year, and add a 1.1-percent increase in 2009, a 2-percent bonus for e-prescribing in 2009 and 2010, and a 2-percent bonus for reporting Physician Quality Reporting Initiative measures in 2009 and 2010. The biggest stumbling block was that S 3101 would have cut Medicare Advantage plans to pay for increasing physicians’ payments. President Bush says he will veto any bill that takes money from the Medicare Advantage plans. Senate Democratic and Republican leadership have begun negotiating a bipartisan compromise that can pass muster with the White House. “We will continue to keep you apprised of progress as it occurs and will ask for your action only when it’s critical to moving the bill along,” Dr. Williams said.

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