KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

CBO: Medicare Payment ‘Doc Fix’ Is More Expensive Than Expected

The debate over what to do about Medicare payments to doctors continues. Physicans have been lobbying "to repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which triggers automatic Medicare payment cuts if spending rises above a certain level," CongressDaily reports. Those cuts have been put off for years.

On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office said that just freezing current Medicare payment rates to doctors would likely cost nearly $276 billion through 2020, a 33 percent increase from legislation that would "accomplish that goal introduced late last year by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., estimated to cost $207 billion at the time" according to CongressDaily. "Aides on both sides of the aisle attributed the cost increase to assumptions of an improved economy, which tends to add more to the cost of health services, as well as demographic changes that foresee increased numbers of retirees in 2020 over the previous year."

Democrats would like to pass a "doc fix" bill to stave off the cuts for perhaps as long as five years - at a cost of almost $89 billion - but scheduled cuts are slated to take effect June 1 if nothing is done. "The American Medical Association is continuing to lobby hard for a permanent fix, despite the cost" (Cohn, 5/4).

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