Major Doctors Group Barred From Medicare Talks
The Senate Finance Committee has banned the American Medical Association from discussions about an upcoming Medicare package that would stop a 10% cut to physician fees, according to a Democratic aide, CongressDaily reports. The cuts will go into effect on July 1 unless Congress intervenes (Johnson, CongressDaily, 2/15).
According to CongressDaily, "AMA lost the trust" of Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) "when it broke a confidentiality agreement about Medicare talks last year and informed state affiliates." In addition, an aide said Finance Committee criticized AMA for supporting a budget gimmick in 2006, then complaining about it later, CongressDaily reports. The budget gimmick is achieved by halting scheduled cuts in exchange for larger cuts in later years.
AMA has been pushing the Finance Committee to delay the cuts for 18 months and increase physician payments by 1.5% to cover cost increases. House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) on Thursday said that he doubts Congress would be able to find the money for a patch and that the cut would go into effect.
Stark also said he that he doubts AMA's request for an 18-month delay would be approved. He said, "What we have to write is a complete new payment system. I hope we can talk about it this year and begin to think about what's needed." The committee is expected to mark up a Medicare bill in April or May to provide a temporary fix (CongressDaily, 2/15).