AMA Shut Out of Medicare Talks

The quick fix on the Medicare fee cutbacks that the US Congress passed late last year is due to end on July 1, when a 10% cut will be implemented unless the lawmakers act again. But when the US Senate Finance Committee, which is crafting a Medicare package, sits down to

“You can’t take your eye off the US Congress … it must be a constant vigil on the doctor’s part.”—US Congressman Michael Burgess, MD

The quick fix on the Medicare fee cutbacks that the US Congress passed late last year is due to end on July 1, when a 10% cut will be implemented unless the lawmakers act again. But when the US Senate Finance Committee, which is crafting a Medicare package, sits down to discuss particulars, the American Medical Association will not be at the table. The association apparently peeved Committee Chairman Max Baucus by violating a confidentiality agreement by informing state affiliates about last year’s negotiations and the Montana senator has banned the association from deliberations on the legislation.

The AMA has been lobbying for an 18-month reprieve from the lower fees, along with a 1.5% jump in reimbursement levels to cover doctor’s cost increases. The word from Capitol Hill, however, is that the best doctors can hope for this year is another fix that would temporarily postpone the fee cuts. A major stumbling block is finding money to offset the financial impact of not enacting the lower fees. Democrats are targeting the subsidies paid to Medicare Advantage plans, but the Bush Administration has threatened to veto any package that includes wholesale cuts to these plans.

$169,300—Annual salary for a member of the US Congress.(Boston Globe, 2008)