Reforms to Medicare Payments Unlikely This Year
Medicare's physician payment formula and the nation's medical malpractice laws likely will not be overhauled and reformed this year by Congress, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, said at the American Medical Association's National Advocacy Conference on Tuesday, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Deal said, "[T]his is not a good year quite frankly to expect any major long-term reform" of the payment formula because lawmakers probably will not take on any controversial measures in an election year. He said, "You probably will see us having to wrestle with another annual adjustment" this year to block scheduled cuts under the formula with one- and two-year "payment fixes," which have occurred in recent years.
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, who also was at the meeting, said physicians can help the Bush administration move away from the current sustainable growth rate payment formula. McClellan also urged physicians to participate in the Physicians Voluntary Reporting Program because it will give them a valuable experience in preparing for future changes in Medicare payments and let them have more input on how the system should be run.
Deal said that a House-passed medical malpractice bill (HR 5) likely will not be addressed this year.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) also spoke to AMA members, talking about a bill (S 1784) she and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are co-sponsoring that would allow HHS to award grants to encourage the adoption of programs such as Sorry Works, which has been implemented at the University of Michigan health care system.
Under the program, doctors receive liability protection when they quickly disclose medical errors and apologize to those harmed. The program also has a compensation system for patients who were harmed and analyzes errors to determine if anything can be changed to prevent their recurrence (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 3/14).