Monday, 20 May 2013
The Federal government’s incredible shrinking deficit has some thinking that a budget deal is not imminent so why worry about advocacy. That may be true for some but for health care providers, it couldn’t be further from the truth. And the reason for that is the very real potential for some kind of Medicare Doc Fix.
Remember when “Doc Fix’s” price tag was $350 billion-plus for 10 years? Well, that price tag has fallen to bargain basement levels of as little as $139 billion and Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle are saying, “now is the time to make the deal.”
While the price tag may have dropped, it is still far from “budget dust”. And the money to pay for that deal will not magically appear. Funding for even this measly little $139 billion will come from somewhere – more than likely from the long standing list of Medicare provider cuts that SDAHO has been opposing for a long time. You know – graduate medical education, CAH funding, SNF funding, 340B, Frontier States, etc.
One other consideration about that $139 billion number – it assumes that reimbursement rates would be frozen over that 10-year period. One per cent annual increases cost $177.7 billion; increases consistent with medical inflation $224.8 billion. So while the barebones option may seem very attractive, look for more expensive options to quickly emerge and again, funding sources will be key.
The latest projections put the 2013 Federal deficit at a “mere” $642 billion – down sharply from last year’s deficit of $1.087 trillion. And while that will divert political rhetoric this August to other issues and delays some kind of “grand bargain”, the same cannot be said for the Medicare Doc Fix. It behooves us all to stay alert and stay involved.
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