Republican Senator Jim Bunning is on a one-man political rampage, blocking bills and letting millions of Americans — and perhaps his own party — suffer the consequences.But he stopped the passage of bills last week that would have increased the federal deficit. These included an extension of unemployment benefits and a measure to fill a $10 billion budget gap in Medicare funding.
As a result of the un-addressed gap, doctors nationwide will see a 21% cut in Medicare disbursements on Monday and every day until the measure passes.
(AP) — Political gridlock in the Senate triggered a 21 per cent cut in Medicare fees to doctors Monday, as the American Medical Association warned of a ”meltdown” for seniors and the Obama administration scrambled to contain the damage.
Funding to temporarily stave off the cuts was part of a bill passed last week by the House. But the Senate failed to act on the one-month fix because Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky objected that the $10 billion measure would add to the deficit.
Republican leaders have since pledged to help pass the temporary legislation. The administration, meanwhile, is ordering Medicare billing contractors not to pay any claims from doctors for the first 10 business days of March, hoping the Senate will move swiftly and physicians can be reimbursed in full. Medicare usually pays electronic claims in 14 days.
But Dr. James Rohack, president of the AMA, said the instability is damaging the popular health insurance program for seniors — and is a harbinger of bigger problems, if Congress fails to act this year on a health care overhaul.
The Medicare cuts are the consequence of a 1990s deficit reduction measure that Congress has routinely waived over the years. But every time the cuts are postponed, they only get bigger in percentage terms, making a permanent fix more costly and difficult.
Rohack says the doctor cuts are a prime example of why postponing action won’t work when it comes to high medical costs and millions of uninsured.
”From the AMA’s standpoint, if Congress does nothing, things are not going to get better by themselves,” Rohack said in a recent interview. ”They are only going to get worse, and it’s only going to become more of a crisis management situation.”
Coincidentally, the Medicare cuts come as the doctors’ group opens a major issue advocacy conference in Washington this week. Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to address the AMA on Tuesday.
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