Medicare Cut Stays Linked to Deadlocked Tax Bill

With less than two weeks left to go in the year, Congress has delivered disappointing and devastating news to physicians. House Republicans announced they have no plans to address the 27% cut in Medicare fees in a separate bill.

As it stands now, the Medicare payments are part of a payroll-tax cut bill that has Congress deadlocked. If things stay as they are, the Medicare cut will go into effect on Jan. 1 and it will be the first time in a decade that Congress has not stopped cuts to Medicare’s physician rates.

Before today’s announcement, the American College of Physicians released a statement that it looked more and more unlikely that Congress would prevent the cut with each day that passed.

After the news today, Peter W. Carmel, MD, president of the American Medical Association rebuked the members of Congress for not acting decisively.

“Congress has again failed to fulfill its responsibilities,” he said in a statement. “It is shameful that patients and physicians are the collateral damage; the citizens of this country deserve better. Congress had the entire year to repeal the broken physician payment formula and provide stability for the millions of seniors and military families who rely on Medicare and TRICARE but has failed to act.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians also came out with a harsh statement about Congress’ failure, saying that the organization is “outraged.”

“That failure has presented their elderly and disabled constituents a bitter holiday gift — uncertainty whether their physicians will be able to provide the services they need,” President Glen Stream, MD, MBI, said in a statement.

He added that this will cause a disruption in physician practices that will see a “devastating” loss of income next year.

“For some family physicians, Medicare patients comprise as much as eight in 10 of their patients,” he said. “No business can sustain such immediate and draconian cuts to their revenue.”

Stream called on Congress to scrap the “unworkable” sustainable growth rate, which yearly threatens access to care for some people.

“Without implementing a comprehensive reform of Medicare physician payment, Congress is merely adding to the ultimate cost of a permanent solution,” Stream said.  “This annual agony over Medicare patients’ access to care must end. Postponing a permanent solution is false economy.”