In an earlier discussion of the prospect of finally fixing the SGR payment formula for physicians I wrote that I can't be bought. That is, I will not be suddenly supportive of a health care reform that threatens to eliminate private insurance over time, ration care, and put patients at risk.
This is nonsense, and I urge my fellow physicians to stand firm. If this payment fix is passed as it should be, assess the pros and cons of health reform on its own merits, and don't let such a temporary financial fix, one that merely avoids the threatened cuts, influence your decision making.
The White House and Democratic leaders are offering doctors a deal: They’ll freeze cuts in Medicare payments to doctors in exchange for doctors’ support of healthcare reform.
At a meeting on Capitol Hill last week with nearly a dozen doctors groups, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would take up separate legislation to halt scheduled Medicare cuts in doctor payments over the next 10 years. In return, Reid made it clear that he expected their support for the broader healthcare bill, according to four sources in the meeting. …
Reid also asked that doctors ease up on demands for medical malpractice reform during the upcoming healthcare debate. Democrats have traditionally resisted calls for tort reform, which trial attorneys — a reliable base group — staunchly oppose.
But the primary focus of the meeting was on Democratic plans to bring to the Senate floor a standalone bill costing nearly $250 billion that would freeze cuts in doctors’ payments mandated by a 1997 law. Without the freeze, doctors would see their Medicare payments drop by 21 percent next year and by 40 percent by 2016. The bill’s costs are not offset by tax increases or spending cuts at a time when the Obama administration estimates the federal deficit at $1.4 trillion.
Look at that last paragraph again. "Without the freeze, doctors would see their Medicare payments drop by 21 percent next year and by 40 percent by 2016." Let me give you a few Medicare physician rates, for perspective. Total Hip Replacement (27130) which removes chronic pain and restores the ability to walk = $1300. Care for a broken shoulder without surgery (23600) = $250. Yes, you read that right. Repairing a bimalleolar broken ankle with plates and screws (27814)= $700. Remember that all of these include 90 days of aftercare, and all of them can involve considerable risk of lawsuit and/or complication. Now do the math for a 40% reduction. Exactly. And they want us to back down on tort reform, too?
Ed Morrissey has it right.
Despite that little PR stunt in the Rose Garden, doctors mostly oppose ObamaCare, and for very good reasons. More and more of them avoid Medicare patients, as the reimbursement rates are ridiculously low. In order to actually get physicians to support the reform, the Democrats had to sweeten the pot. Reid and the Senate did that in an underhanded, dishonest fashion.
And now we're supposed to get down on our knees to thank Sen. Reid and the Democrats for the munificence of not cutting these already pathetically low reimbursements? Give me a break.
10/20/09 1720: From the comments at Hot Air:
The pharmaceutical industry has already found out how long these promises last.