Doctors face 21 percent cut in Medicare payments

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 14, 2010; A05

Doctors with Medicare patients will start seeing a 21 percent pay cut this week after Congress failed to defer the cuts by two more years.

The Senate had until June 1 to avert the cuts. It is not expected to vote by Tuesday, when the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' temporary hold on Medicare claims expires.

Some members of the American Medical Association signed white lab coats instead of a petition to voice their displeasure on Sunday at the group's annual meetings in Chicago. The coats will be delivered to lawmakers in Washington on Friday, a spokeswoman said.

"The Senate's failure to act before June 1 made the 21 percent cut the law of the land," AMA President J. James Rohack said in a statement. "Physicians will start seeing a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments this week that will hurt seniors' health care as physicians are forced to make practice changes to keep their practice doors open."

Legislation to restore doctor's pay -- known as the "doc fix" -- is part of a broader aid package that includes jobless benefits and more financial aid for the states. In his Saturday radio address, President Obama called on lawmakers to avert the pay cuts, faulting Republicans for the delay. "After years of voting to defer these cuts, the other party is now willing to walk away from the needs of our doctors and our seniors," Obama said.

Republicans call the package fiscally irresponsible and said it would add $80 billion to a bloated federal deficit. Some moderate Republicans say they will vote for the package if the cost is offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

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