Medicare ‘Doc Fix’ Has Its Side Effects

June 25, 2010

Imagine if the latest solution to delaying Medicare reimbursement cuts were a pharma commercial.

Imagine if the latest solution to delaying Medicare reimbursement cuts were a pharma commercial.

You can envision a voiceover announcing the “doc fix” over a physician raising the blinds on his windows, turning the “closed” sign to “open” on his practice, high-fiving senior citizen patients as they stream into the office for care. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would deliver reimbursement checks with a smile to practice administrators, and wonderful music would fill the scene.

But then would come the inevitable, rapid fire announcement about all the potential side effects of the “doc fix”:

Warning, the “doc fix” is temporary. It is not a long-term solution to the problem, but brings temporary relief to the burning, nagging issue of the uncertainty of Medicare reimbursements.

Do not enjoy this new offering  if you are in concierge medicine or do not accept Medicare patients.

We interrupt the commercial momentarily with a news update: Last night, the U.S. House joined its colleagues in the Senate in approving a $6.4 billion initiative to delay a 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to physicians until the beginning of December, in addition to a 2.2 percent payment update. The president is expected to sign the legislation today, making the move retroactive to June 1.

Now back to your regularly-scheduled commercial voiceover:

You may experience initial feelings of relief, excitement and even euphoria from the “doc fix;” these are all normal and will subside in a day or two. If these symptoms persist for a prolonged period, go to your calendar, circle Nov. 30, 2010 and write “’doc fix’ expires”. That should temper your enthusiasm.

You may experience a delay in your practice’s revenue – this is normal. CMS will reprocess your old claims as soon as possible, but in the meantime, make it work. Do not immediately dismiss all of the Medicare patients from your practice; take 24 hours before making any rash decisions under the “doc fix.”

When pondering the long term effects, you could also experience confusion, bewilderment and possibly anger. If these symptoms persist, contact your congressman (or click “Add Your Own Comment” below).

If these feelings last more than four consecutive hours, contact your congressman immediately or drive to Washington, D.C., to confront them in person….if they have not left for summer vacation.

The move by legislators is seen by many, from lawmakers themselves to the AMA, as a short-term solution to the years-long issue of the Medicare reimbursement cut. Once an annual extension, Congress has now proved it is willing to let the deadline come, let the cut begin, and amid pressure from the industry, put off a decision until months later. This frustration is evident in the associations which represent the nation’s physicians as well as the president himself, who urged lawmakers not to kick this can down the road any further and find a long-term solution. That is still up for debate by Congress.

So the “solution” by Congress reminds me of a new drug offering, full of promise and relief, but yet with a list of side effects some would want to ignore due to the end benefits.

Are you experiencing any of these symptoms? How do you feel this morning? If you can’t reach your congressmen, let us know – our operators are standing by to read your replies.