Base future Medicare pay on no cuts

LETTER — Posted Dec. 6, 2010

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I have been in private practice for 10 years. Since the beginning of my tenure in medicine, our reimbursement by the federal government has been held hostage by the very people who promised us this wouldn't happen. We find ourselves no better off today in terms of dealing with Congress than we did 10 years ago. In my opinion, the AMA has not done enough.

Clearly, Medicare is and always will be a priority in this country. The idea that the government that instituted it would somehow place it in jeopardy is preposterous. It's time to stop playing games and fix the problem once and for all.

Congress would be better off debating other issues than keep revisiting this one year after year (or more recently month after month). I would suggest a new formula building on what is already in place. Physicians haven't started bailing on Medicare yet, which means the reimbursements are still somewhat palatable.

Freeze reimbursement for one year. Starting Jan. 1, 2012, and for each and every year thereafter, a yearly positive update would be determined, which would take into account the average positive updates of the previous 10 years. Zero percent updates and negative updates would be excluded from the formula. Congress would have the option every five years to freeze payments for one year only, but never to reduce payments. This is included to make up for periods of recession.

In terms of paying for it, let our legislators decide who is going to give up what pork, but please encourage them to stop threatening to cut it out of the sides of our senior citizens.

Terrell M. Hemelt, MD, Slidell, La.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/12/06/edlt1206.htm.

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