The U.S. House of Representatives voted to delay a 23% Medicare payment cut to physicians that was scheduled for Wednesday, December 1, according to the Associated Press. The one-month delay will provide physicians with a short-term reprieve to a looming crisis over treatment of the nation’s elderly.
Many doctors have threatened to stop accepting new Medicare patients if the cut went ahead. “While this short-term delay helps ensure that physicians can continue to care for seniors for the next month, congressional action early in December to stop the cut for one year will inject stability into the Medicare program and ensure that Medicare delivers on its promise of health coverage for America’s seniors,” Cecil Wilson, a physician who serves as president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement. “It is crucial that Congress act well before the January 1 deadline so there are no disruptions in care for seniors.”
Delaying the cut will hopefully provide lawmakers more time to adopt the year-long extension that seniors and doctors need. This extension would give time to create a new way to pay doctors for Medicare services. However, unless Congress passes further legislation next month, doctors will face another huge cut January.
The Medicare payment formula was established by Congress in 1997. The formula associates the spending on doctors to growth of the economy, measured by the gross domestic product. Many doctors want to eliminate the formula because costs are rising much faster than Medicare payment rates.