Sen. Debbie Stabenow
October 20, 2009 - Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), joined by representatives of the American Medical Association (AMA), American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the Military Officers Association of America at a Capitol Hill news conference, urged lawmakers to reverse $247 billion in projected Medicare reimbursement cuts to doctors.
Stabenow argued the reversal is necessary to create more stability for healthcare providers in a current climate of uncertainty. The bill would mean a 40 percent reduction in Medicare payments over the next six years.
Stabenow noted that Congress repeatedly has overturned physician reimbursement cuts mandated under a Medicare "sustainable growth rate" formula imposed in 1997. The Medicare Physicians Fairness Act of 2009, if passed, would eliminate Medicare's sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula and protect seniors' and military families' access to care.
The AMA reports on its Web site:
"Senate leadership says S. 1776, the "Medicare Physicians Fairness Act of 2009" will serve as the Senate legislative vehicle for eliminating the SGR and laying the foundation for establishing a new Medicare physician payment update system through health system reform or other legislation. The bill would repeal the SGR permanently and set future payment updates at zero."
Adding, "[T]he Senate leadership made it very clear that Congress does not intend to implement a permanent physician payment freeze and call it Medicare payment reform-and the AMA would not support such a proposal. Rather, by passing a separate bill that repeals the SGR and eliminates the accumulated spending target debt, budget constraints that have stopped permanent Medicare reform in the past would be lifted, allowing a new physician payment update system to be incorporated into a broader health system reform bill."
Conservatives scoffed at Stabenow, saying it was a political move to win over the favor of healthcare groups, such as the AMA, to support the healthcare overhaul.