Bipartisan Proposal Would Reduce Medicare Pay to Doctors

Wednesday, 27 Nov 2013 10:58 PM

By Todd Beamon

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A bipartisan proposal that would overhaul how Medicare pays doctors and erase billions of dollars in annual spending on some services was released Wednesday by members of Congress.

"For years, Medicare payments to doctors have been at risk of being slashed, limiting seniors' access to high-quality care," Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who heads the Senate Finance Committee, told The Washington Post. "Enough with the quick fixes."

Under the plan, Medicare would cut payments for doctors' services that have been considered overpriced, setting a savings goal of $3 billion a year and using those funds to increase pay for other undervalued physician services.

In addition, the proposal would allow Americans who receive government subsidies to enroll in Medicare without calculating an exact amount for such services, the Post reports.

Medicare's payment system has long been under fire by doctors and medical experts as favoring certain specialists over general practitioners. The payment mechanism has also been as a factor behind rising prices, the critics contend.

The proposal is part of legislation that would update the formula used to calculate how much Medicare spends every year on physician fees.

The existing formula requires deep cuts in doctor payments every year, but they are overridden by Congress — and the new bill would repeal that mechanism, according to the Post.

Besides Baucus, other legislators supporting the new payment proposal are Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican member of the Finance Committee; Rep. Dave Camp, the Michigan Republican who heads the House Ways and Means Committee; and the panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Sandy Levin of Michigan.

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