Health Care Reform Affects Medicare & Seniors

Many seniors have waited to see what President Obama’s health care plan will do to Medicare and how it will affect the care they receive. Congress has been working towards a solution that will slow the rise of Medicare spending while at the same time meet doctors’ expectations. February 17, 2012 brought some temporary good news with the passage of the Medicare Physician Reimbursement Rates.

Balance Between Medicare, Seniors and Doctors

The “Doc Fix” as it is often called was once again passed in Congress, allows the rates that physicians charge to provide care for Medicare patients to stay the same. This is an annual decision whether to keep the rates the same, increase them, or cut them.

This decision affects millions of seniors who see a doctor on a regular basis. If the rates are cut, many doctors will no longer accept Medicare reimbursements. This will mean that seniors will either be required to pay out of pocket, purchase additional insurance or find another doctor.

While many Americans agree that there is a need for a Medicare reform, they do not want to see it at the expense of health care for seniors. The decision is seen as a temporary fix; one that will eventually need to be dealt with in a more permanent way.

Cutting Medicare Spending

The budget for 2013 would reduce Medicare spending from 2013 to 2022 and Part D of the drug pay policy would be aligned with Medicaid. Payments for post-acute care would then need to be adjusted. This plan would also lower Medicare graduate education payments in the next 10 years reducing the number of physicians who will be trained by up to 10,000 each year.

The biggest news is the repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR), which becomes the “Doc Fix” by replacing the scheduled cuts to physicians’ pay.  The problem with this repeal is that there isn’t a clear indication of how the costs will be paid to eliminate the formula.

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