Or you just might read the following Kaiser Health News to grasp the nearness of the cliff and the depth of the abyss.
As the nation hurtles toward the fiscal cliff, doctors are staring down a much more daunting abyss, a panel of experts said Thursday at Politico Pro's health care breakfast briefing. Not only do doctors face a 2 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements because of the failure -- thus far -- to avoid sequestration, but they're also looking at a 27 percent reduction in pay in the absence of a deal to fix the Medicare payment formula (Cheney, 11/29).
For-profit providers face the greatest risk from slashed spending and tax hikes known as the fiscal cliff, one major credit rating agency said in a newly released outlook for the health care industry. For-profit providers could see lost revenue under a scheduled 2 percent Medicare pay cut and a slump in business "should elements of the fiscal cliff reduce economic activity and increase unemployment," Fitch Ratings said in its 2013 outlook for for-profit health care, which includes acute-care hospital operators, drug and device manufacturers, diagnostic and life science companies and the health care service sector. Overall, the weak economy and fiscal cliff will drag on health care growth despite an aging population, the chronically ill and demand from emerging markets, the report said. The sector's outlook is stable, Fitch said (Evans, 11/29).
Congress is focused on using a $7 billion reduction in Medicare evaluation and management payments for hospitals as a way to help pay for delaying a looming physician pay cut, according to hospital officials and advocates. The long-discussed reduction in evaluation and management rates for hospital-based clinicians to the level paid to office-based physicians has gained traction with members of Congress as a way to help offset the estimated $25.2 billion cost of a one-year patch for the sustainable growth-rate formula. …The country's largest hospital group brought about 150 executives to Capitol Hill on Thursday to warn lawmakers about the impact on hospitals of the proposed evaluation and management cuts, among other cuts (Daly, 11/29).
Hospital officials complain that Medicare already underpays them, and they're worried that an idea that was proposed by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission -- and could be adopted by Congress -- would further reduce what they pocket for nonemergency doctors' visits. Representatives from hospitals in Mississippi, Maine, Pennsylvania and Oregon spoke at the Rayburn House Office Building about how the proposed cuts would affect their services. ... The recommendation would cut hospital reimbursements by 68 percent to 80 percent, the hospitals say (Cunningham, 11/29)
As lawmakers head into talks to avoid the fiscal cliff, doctors are watching closely. Thanks to bad timing, the Medicare fees that doctors are paid for treating seniors has gotten tangled up in the same high-stakes deal-making to avert the fiscal cliff -- across the board tax hikes and spending cuts that kick in January. If Congress does nothing, doctors will be reimbursed 27 percent less than current rates, starting Jan. 1. That could spur thousands of doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients. It's not a situation any politician wants to see. So, Congress will likely find a way to keep rates from going up in 2013, experts from both political parties say. The question is when and how (Liberto, 11/30)."
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