KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Doctors Oppose Independent Commission For Medicare Payments

Doctors are objecting to one possible provision of a reform bill - favored by the White House and Blue Dogs - that would give an independent commission more power over Medicare payments.

The Wall Street Journal reports that while the American Medical Association and the American College of Surgeons "have thus far supported significant pieces of the Democrats' health-care agenda, and President Barack Obama has repeatedly cited physicians' backing for his health-overhaul plans... doctors are objecting to proposals that would allow a federal commission to set the size of Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers. ... Doctors' objections to the commission idea highlight the difficulty of maintaining the support of different health-care constituencies when the focus turns to controlling costs."

The Journal reports: "The AMA also argued that Congress already has a provision in place intended to slow the rise of Medicare payments to physicians. That curb on payment levels has repeatedly been overridden by Congress in the face of pressure from doctors' groups fighting scheduled pay cuts. As a result, Medicare payment rates to doctors are now roughly 20% higher than levels called for under the cost-control provision. The AMA and the surgeons' group both backed the health-care bill House Democrats introduced earlier this month, in part because the legislation would retain the higher payment level for physicians. ... Mr. Orszag responded that the proposal was aimed at the longer term" (Goldstein, 7/29).

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