How politicians “fix” a problem – you will ultimately pay for the Medicare “doc-fix”

A problem that has existed for many years is the automatic adjustment that triggers cuts in physician payments under Medicare. Each year Congress puts a band aid on the problem. This year is no exception. The recent deal on this is most interesting in how it works, basically taking from one hand to give to another and ultimately shifting more costs to individual Americans… and the fix is only for the next ten months.

Don't get me wrong the scheduled cuts in payments to physicians was not viable, but solving that problem by cutting payments to someone else is no answer either. The real issue now and always is the total affordability or lack thereof for Medicare as currently constituted.

This from Kaiser Health News:

The proposal would cut Medicare payments to hospitals and other providers for “bad debt,” Medicare payments to clinical laboratories and Medicaid “disproportionate share” payments to hospitals that serve many poor patients, and divert $5 billion from the health law’s $15 billion prevention fund.

In addition, Louisiana would not receive $2.5 billion in additional Medicaid funds included in the health law, according to a GOP aide…A summary circulating Wednesday notes that cuts to health law funding comprise a large portion of the savings funding the Medicare spending in the agreement. The package would cost about $50 billion over the next decade, with about $20 billion going towards the Medicare doc fix and Medicare extenders package.

The negotiators plan to take $9.6 billion from areas that include payment cuts for clinical laboratory services and Medicare “bad debt,” payments Medicare makes to hospitals and nursing homes when patients cannot pay for their medical care. The tentative deal would reduce Medicaid “disproportionate share” payments to hospitals by more than $4 billion.

So, when patients can't pay (like the deductible and co-pay days), where will the money come from? The hospital will simply eat the loss. Does that have any consequences and if not, why were the payments being made in the first place?

Here we have another example of short term thinking, ignoring the unintended consequences, passing the buck to the next generation and passing the real cost to every citizen in the US.

Congress does not need to raise taxes to get you to pay more. Our illustrious Congress has now pushed past the next election, the 2% payroll tax cut, the doc fix and dealing with the tax system. What a way to run … Just about anything.


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