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End the 'doc fix' charade, once and for all
Doctors are breathing a collective sigh of relief because we again escaped a cut in Medicare payments. But this whole recurrent charade underscores, once again, the unresolved issue of how to pay doctors. The fiscal cliff rescue included the usual "doc fix" — an override of the 27 percent Medicare reimbursement cut required by the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) law this year. That law has dictated annual cuts in Medicare reimbursement, which have been overridden by Congress annually. Nevertheless, this escape only postponed the crisis for older patients for another year. Moreover, the budget correction required by overriding the SGR seems to have been largely funded by lowering hospital payments instead — also perhaps bad for patients.
By James Burdick
January 22, 2013