Sen. Reid wants to blame the AMA for the collapse of the "deal" on the "payoff" to physicians.
A group of Democrats joined all Republicans in blocking a 10-year freeze of scheduled cuts to doctors' Medicare payments, legislation that was considered important to getting a broader healthcare bill through later this year.
Prior to the 47-53 procedural vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blamed the American Medical Association (AMA) for giving him bad information on the number of Republicans expected to support the measure.
Where to start? First, the "deal." These two items should never have been tied together in terms of physician support. If the members of the Senate want to do the right thing by both Medicare recipients and by those physicians who treat them - and they should - this bill should have been passed a long time ago, with no strings attached. The old formula, because there were more seniors requiring more services, led to mandatory fee cuts to physicians - cuts which thankfully had been blocked prior to this year, but had accumulated to the point that a 21% Sword of Damocles was hanging over the heads of the docs. Apparently physicians were supposed to keep the costs down, darn it, by denying medically necessary care to seniors. Anyone want to volunteer their aging mom or dad for that?
Second, this wasn't a "payoff," this was a threat. "Support Democratic health reform or we'll let your fees get cut by a fifth." As if they didn't resemble the mob enough.
Finally, I'm sure he'll sit back smugly in his armchair tonight, secure in the knowledge that he can make those rebellious MD's pay by cutting their fees for next year. And then he can sit back and explain to seniors why it's so difficult to find a physician to provide them care.
And if the AMA did his bidding? They'd have gained nothing, abandoning tort reform while still at risk for future cuts if costs rise higher than the reform bills project ... which they most certainly will.
10/21/09 2330: More
The AMA president may indeed have some backbone.
Here's Michelle with the vote tally.
ABC's The Note:
The real question now is how will Doctors, with Republicans and a few Democrats voting against repealing their pay cut, react to the final health reform bill being crafted behind doors by Reid and the White House.
Yes, indeed, that is the question.
10/22/09 1205: Credit Ed Morrissey with the best headline for this episode: