Saturday, September 4, 2010

Medicare's "flawed formula"

Dr. David Page recently had a call-to-arms message in the Post-Standard. He spoke about a pending 30% cut in payments doctors receive for taking care of Medicare patients. Here are excerpts from Dr. Page's letter-to-the-editor.
America’s 46 million elderly and disabled patients, as well as military families, are at the center of what once was a yearly battle to preserve their access to health care. This year, that struggle became a quarterly — and at times a monthly — skirmish that has damaged Medicare’s credibility among patients and their doctors.

At the core of this struggle is a flawed formula that controls what Medicare pays physicians for the care of elderly and disabled patients.

* * *

By law, the formula required Medicare to slash physician payment by more than 21 percent this year. Congress knew such a cut would devastate elderly and disabled patients’ access to health care. So legislators have stumbled through this year — at first delaying the pay cut for a few weeks, then allowing the cut to take effect for a few weeks, then stepping in to pass a temporary, retroactive pay fix, then allowing the cut to take effect again before passing a second, temporary, retroactive fix.

This latest fix — without another Congressional intervention — will end Nov. 30. Worse, physicians will face a 30 percent pay cut next year.

This unrelenting threat is destabilizing the Medicare system for patients whose doctors — particularly primary care doctors — work in small- and medium-sized practices, often in underserved areas and with small or no operating margins.

* * *

No other sector of the health care system is routinely subjected to this variability and uncertainty. It’s time to end the month-to-month uncertainty that undermines patients’ confidence in Medicare and disrupts physicians’ ability to provide ongoing care. It’s time to infuse some stability into a system on which more than 46 million Americans depend.
Dr. Page is a family physician who practices in Camillus, NY. A long time member of the Medical Staff at Community General Hospital, he serves on the hospital's Board of Directors. He is President of the FamilyCare Medical Group, PC, which was honored last year by the Community General Foundation. Dr. Page is Vice President of the Onondaga County Medical Society.

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