Playing chicken with Medicare

Government programs are magical, see.

Or…well, I thought they were. I thought …didn’t I hear somebody say this? I thought that once the government takes over providing a service – let’s say, for example, medical care – then you’ve got the service. You’re taken care of. No problem. Covered.

Nobody goes without when the government is doing it!

So what’s this story about Medicare doctor reimbursement cuts?

With lawmakers worried that older Americans relying on Medicare could begin losing access to health care, the Senate on Friday approved a six-month plan…

What happens after six months?

…to prevent a steep cut in doctor fees paid by the federal health program.

That “steep cut” is 21%. See, whatever you did today to earn your living, next week we’re only going to pay you 79% of that. Yeah, I know, you took the job after we offered you $15 an hour, but now we’re going to pay you $11.85 an hour. Sorry. You make sure and get here good and early tomorrow, now, hear?

The $6.4 billion measure would reverse a 21 percent cut in physician payments that was to kick in Friday, raising the possibility that some doctors might begin to turn away those covered by Medicare.

Ya think?

The legislation, known on Capitol Hill as the ‘doc fix’, was approved without a roll call vote after leaders of both parties agreed to pull it out of a stalled package of tax changes and safety-net spending.

…The measure must still be approved by the House, which returns next week.

Though the Senate made progress on the Medicare front, it faces difficulty in resolving other stalled issues, including $40 billion in added unemployment benefits and $24 billion in aid to states to provide health care to the poor. Democrats failed to break a partisan stalemate over those programs on Thursday night.

Whether that “stalemate” could throw a wrench into the House’s Medicare reimbursement vote — if they even hold one — I dunno.

I do know that these reimbursement cuts are something Congress holds over doctors every year. Every. Single. Year. And they end up eliminating the cuts — maintaining reimbursement rates — every single year.

So why even put the cuts in there? Especially when everybody knows what will happen: they’ll take them back out, or doctors will stop seeing Medicare patients.

Which will be really weird, won’t it? Because, come on, it’s a government program. Nobody ever goes without once they’re covered by a government program. Do they? Government programs…they’re like magic. Effortless. So much better than having to buy things for yourself.

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