Just in time for Thanksgiving, Congresspushed through a highly anticipatedMedicare bill, which should give docs areason to be merry, at least for the nextcouple years. Donald J. Palmisano, MD,JD, president of the AMA, applauded thebill's passage as "a historic victory forMedicare patients and their physicians."Last year, Congress adjusted the Medicarereimbursement formula, creating a smallincrease (1.6%), but this was only temporary.The new legislation will halt Medicarecuts and offer at least a 1.5% increasein payments for the next two years. In2004, this will represent a 6% differencein Medicare payments. Besides increasing,rather than cutting payments (which wasdone by 5.4% in 2002), the bill will alsomake all Medicare patients eligible for aprescription drug benefit. It will offer allMedicare patients a greater choice ofhealth plans, and reduce payment disparitiesin parts of the country where physicianservices are in short supply. It hopesto eliminate a great deal of regulation,freeing up physicians to spend more timewith patients and less on paperwork.