"They know better than to do it."
"They realize the disaster it would be if they let it pass."
That's what I hear. I hear that the upcoming SGR adjustment, the one that will cut Medicare reimbursement by 23%, won't go through. In case you missed it, the SGR is a formula coming from the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 that does automatic cuts to Medicare reimbursement. This year we witnessed a legislative game of chicken in congress, with both sides agreeing that it was a bad idea to screw physicians in a time that they are trying to fix healthcare. Here's what happened:
On March 3, 2010, Congress delayed the enforcement of the conversion factor until April 1, 2010. On April 15, 2010, Congress voted to again delay the implementation and extended the 2009 rate to June 1, 2010. On June 25, 2010, President Obama signed legislation that not only delayed implementation of the conversion factor until December 1, 2010 but also increased reimbursements by 2.2%. The 2.2% increase is retroactive to June 1, 2010, and will expire on November 30, 2010. Barring any further congressional legislation, this will result in a 23.5% decrease in Medicare reimbursements on December 1, 2010. (Wikipedia)
So we are t minus 65 days until we face another congressional battle. The thing that makes it scary: November 2. On November 2, our current congress changes its members, making the current congress lame-ducks. Lame duck, impotent, worthless. They are the ones who are supposed to fix this once and for all? They are the ones who aren't going to play political sabotage on the other side?
I was talking with some of my colleagues last week, and the "it won't happen" line didn't work. They were all depressed, and all making plans to deal with a systemic melt-down. They talked like men living in the shadow of the gallows. Plan for the future? The only way to do that is to stop accepting Medicare, which will be hard to do when 40% of the practice is Medicare patients. There were a lot of downcast eyes, a lot of frustration. There was not much comfort to give when the dark clouds are gathering.
Things are about to get worse.
Oh wait! I forgot! It will never happen.
Now I feel happy.