Physicians who accept Medicare for their services have been through a rough ride, a recurring nightmare of last-minute (and last-second) renewals of their pay budget in Congress. The roller coaster still isn’t over, but at least it seems to be a little bit better. How much? 2.2%, if the Senate’s bill passes. Don’t get too excited yet, though. That authorization is only good through November, and that’s only if it passes. The Congress still hasn’t approved anything enduring, and the Senate votes thus far aren’t promising.
Physicians aren’t the only ones caught on the roller coaster. Patients have also been left in the lurch. Patients turn to their doctors for information and consolation. They want to know that the ability to receive medical treatment from their trusted healer won’t lapse. Unfortunately, doctors are in the dark too. Much as they would like to be able to give comforting news to their patients, honesty requires that they say “I don’t know any more than you do.” Most won’t make their patients worry about their problems, but the fact is that some practices are hanging on by a thin thread, and the Medicare delays make matters worse.
This latest stop-loss tactic isn’t even in the basket yet quite yet. The Senate is attempting to pen something which will mesh with the House bill. A previous version, (which would have increased the national debt by more than 70 billion dollars) failed by a noticeable margin. Though everyone in Congress seems to agree that the programs should continue, and that physicians should be fairly compensated, none of the representatives want that money being spent on their watch.
This most recent round of proposals is likely to be voted on by the end of this week — just in time to stave off another in the countless rounds of threatened pay cuts. If the bill isn’t passed this week, the most recent of the temporary fundings will expire, leaving both doctors and their patients on the edge yet again. By now, we’ve all come to trust that the legislature will continue to pass temporary solutions to this very permanent problem. But it might be unwise to assume that the result will continue to be the same.