GOP Poised to Postpone Doc Pay Cut

Wayne J. Guglielmo


December 22, 2011

December 22, 2011 — In what some see as a capitulation in the face of mounting pressure in and outside the party, House Republican leaders reached an agreement this evening that, among other things, would postpone the 27.4% cut in Medicare physician reimbursement schedule to take effect on January 1.

Along with delaying the cut until March 1, the deal, if pushed to a successful full vote of the House, would also extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for the same period. Each of these provisions is outlined in a Senate bill that House members rejected on Tuesday by a vote of 229 to 193.

In return for their compromise on the Senate bill, House GOP leaders will ask their Senate counterparts to appoint members of a conference committee to work out longer-term solutions for the doctor pay cut, as well as the payroll and unemployment benefits issues.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and other physician groups have made no secret of their impatience for what they call "short-term patches" to the formula for determining physician Medicare compensation.

"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 hailed to act," said AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD, on Tuesday, the day the House voted down the Senate bill.

The AMA and other physician groups want the SGR — or sustainable growth rate formula — fixed once and for all in order to avoid the year-end "brinksmanship" that has become a recurring feature of Washington political theater.

In light of this, physician reaction to the latest compromise — which GOP leaders must still sell to many restive House members — is likely to be muted.


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