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‘Disappointed’ AMA Accepts Pelosi’s Medicare Plan

The American Medical Association is grudgingly accepting a plan by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Congressional Democratic leadership to roll back scheduled cuts in physician Medicare payments through 2013.

The AMA, the nation’s largest doctors group, had adamantly opposed the temporary fix and lobbied lawmakers to find a permanent solution to the reimbursement problem.

But on Thursday, the Democrats made it clear they would only go along with the short-term patch, which is to be included in a larger package of tax extenders that the House is expected to vote on next week.

AMA officials and lobbyists from other groups were briefed on the Medicare payment situation Wednesday evening, when they were summoned to Pelosi’s office by Wendell Primus, the California Democrat’s senior policy adviser on budget and health issues.

In a statement released Thursday, AMA President J. James Rohack said his organization is “deeply disappointed” in the compromise. But he added, “Achieving full repeal of the payment formula is not feasible at this time.

“Lawmakers must realize that the underlying policy problem will return larger than ever in 2014,” Rohack said. “The pending Medicare proposal treats the symptoms — it’s not a cure for the disease.”
Unless Congress acts by June 1, physicians will see a 21.3 percent cut in their Medicare payments.

The AMA gave a significant boost to Democrats earlier this year when it backed the controversial health care overhaul that was signed into law by President Barack Obama. But support for the overhaul did not secure doctors a permanent solution to their Medicare reimbursement problem.

Democrats could not muster the support for a more long-term solution because of resistance from their more fiscally conservative members, particularly in the Senate, who were demanding budget offsets.

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