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Bush Shifts Position on Medicare Physician Payment Cuts

  • January 23rd, 2003

With doctors dropping out of the Medicare program in droves, the Bush administration has changed its position and now opposes any further reductions in fees physicians receive from the government, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

Medicare fees to doctors were cut 5.4 percent last year, and the payment formula adopted by Congress in 1997 as part of the Balanced Budget Act calls for an additional 4.4 percent cut March 1. A recent survey by the American Medical Association found that the March 1 reduction would lead at least half the physicians now caring for Medicare patients to reduce that work.

Because most insurance companies tie their reimbursement rates to Medicare fees, a cut in Medicare payments usually reduces the fees doctors receive for virtually all their patients.

Late last fall, the administration opposed congressional proposals that would have revised the payment schedule for physicians. More recently, the administration had said that it could not prevent this year''s payment cuts. The administration's change of heart now all but ensures that the payment cuts will be canceled, according to the Times.

An administration spokesman also hinted at broader Medicare reforms to be proposed next week in President Bush''s State of the Union address and in his budget for the next fiscal year. As ElderLawAnswers has previously reported, the administration''s proposals are likely to include a greater role for managed care plans, as well as higher Medicare premiums for patients who do not join those plans.

To read the full article in the Los Angeles Times, click here. (Article may be only temporarily available.)

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Last Modified: 01/23/2003

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