Good afternoon, ProviderNation. The fine folks at the Congressional Budget Office have gone to the Big Board and done the math on the doc fix. You’ll recall that Congress, after a lot of sound and fury earlier this year, signified little.
That means that docs are facing a 21.2 percent hair cut when the current law expires April 1. (Like all great Doomsday Machines, you see, the doc fix goes off automatically….) You can be sure that Congress-types will be on the wrong end of the hotline for a while.
Some, including Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, are scrambling to avoid Doomsday for the docs in the lame duck session of Congress. That’s probably a long-shot, according to the Lobbying-American types I talked to. Just in case, though, the CBO has run the numbers on some of the proposals that were floated earlier this year. The scores (see for yourself here and here.)
The cost estimates for a permanent fix range from around $119 billion (freeze payments at their current rate for a decade) to more than $204 billion (increase rates by Medicare Economic Index—a kind of inflation calculator for Medicare—for year one, then use MEI to increase physician rates every year thereafter).
The figures are important for a few reasons. First, both parties think the CBO has some astonishingly good ideas; second, the numbers are consistent from last year’s near miss effort at a permanent fix; third, it’s at least some indication to Lobbying-American types about how much will have to paid (if not, sadly, who stays up and who goes down).
In any case, the target is in sight. Now, where the hell is Major Kong?
Bill Myers is Provider’s senior editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @ProviderMyers.