Protecting Seniors' Care

Early this morning the President signed H.R. 3962, which prevents a 21-percent pay cut for doctors participating in Medicare. Had Congress failed to act, some physicians would have been forced to stop taking Medicare patients. That’s not an outcome that the President can accept.

The pay-cut fix is retroactive to June 1, and it doesn’t just undo the cut: it actually represents the highest update since 2001.

And to make sure that doctors see relief right away, the President also signed a directive to the Department of Health and Human Services instructing them to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and implement these changes immediately.

The bottom line: with today’s signings, doctors won’t need to worry about a drastic pay cut, and seniors can rest assured that the care they need will be there when they need it.

If you didn’t catch it, here’s the statement President Obama released last night after the bill passed:

I’m pleased that Congress has acted to ensure the security of our seniors’ health care. A 21-percent pay cut to physicians’ payments would have forced some doctors to step seeing Medicare patients – an outcome we can all agree is unacceptable.

We should also agree, as I’ve said in the past, that kicking these cuts down the road just isn’t an adequate solution to the problem. The current system of recurring cuts and temporary fixes was passed into law more than 10 years ago. It’s untenable.

I believe we need to permanently reform the Medicare formula in a way that attacks our fiscal problems without punishing our hard-working doctors or endangering the benefits on which so many of our seniors rely. I look forward to working with Congress to achieve that goal, and I’m gratified that in the meantime they’ve taken the provisional step of blocking this pay cut.

Nancy-Ann DeParle is Director of the White House Office of Health Reform

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