For what seems like centuries now (hyperbole, or prophecy?) Congress has been putting patches and bandaids on Medicare payments, approving continued pay at (barely) tolerable rates, a month at a time, a few months here and there. In June of 2010, President Obama signed a bill delaying the cuts another six months. Now December 1 looms, less than one week away, and that 23% Medicare payment cut is before us yet again (with an additional 1% cut coming on January 1, 2011). So what does the House do? Propose a slightly longer bandaid.

Representatives Dingell, Pallone, Stark and Waxman, just brought forth another 13-month bandaid to stave off this impending doom. Yet again, the rhetoric is warm and fuzzy: “Congress must act swiftly to ensure that seniors have access to the same doctors that they do today and that doctors are fairly reimbursed for the services they provide,” said Representative John Dingell of Michigan. “I have long supported a permanent fix to the flawed sustainable growth rate, like the one the House of Representatives passed last year… This 13-month extension is far from ideal, but it will give our seniors and physicians the peace of mind they need while Congress works on a permanent solution to this long-standing problem.”

The heathcare system in this country is hemorrhaging profusely. Sticking band-aids over the gaping wound is not a cure. Continuing to leave healthcare for Medicare patients (and their providers) on a lurch is not an answer either.

The question that begs to be answered is this: If these Representatives have so long been proponents of a permanent fix, why isn’t there one? Does it really take any more to pass a bill for 5 years than one for a month or 13 months? The money to pay for it is just as vague now as it ever has been. The bottom line is that it WILL be paid for, because Congress knows that a 24% cut is so unacceptable that Medicare patients would lose their health care providers. What, then, are they all waiting for?

The nuances of the legislature may be beyond this author’s understanding, but one doesn’t have to be a politician to understand that the bills will be paid. No different than the rest of us who have bills to pay, one gets it from wherever, however, but rent or mortgage, staple foods, etc. are not optional. Neither is the cost of Medicare. Enough with the shell game already. Just pass a bill agreeing to pay the Medicare reimbursements at a fair and reasonable rate. Then the accountants can tend to business while Congress figures out how it is to be paid for in a separate piece of legislation.