Echoing the message coming from the doctors' lobby, President Barack Obama on Thursday night applauded the passage of a temporary doc-fix bill, but also urged Congress to work on a permanent solution.
"Kicking these cuts down the road just isn’t an adequate solution to the problem," Obama said in a statement. "The current system of recurring cuts and temporary fixes was passed into law more than 10 years ago. It’s untenable.
"I believe we need to permanently reform the Medicare formula in a way that attacks our fiscal problems without punishing our hard-working doctors or endangering the benefits on which so many of our seniors rely," he added. "I look forward to working with Congress to achieve that goal, and I’m gratified that in the meantime they’ve taken the provisional step of blocking this pay cut."
In November, the House approved a permanent repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that dictates physician payments under Medicare — a formula that many experts say sets rates below the market value of the health services delivered. But Senate Republicans, along with some centrist Democrats, rejected the bill outright, arguing against the more than $200 billion in new deficit spending.
The bill passed this week simply delays the latest SGR-derived cut until December. That gets lawmakers through November's midterms, but they're almost certain to return to the issue in the lame duck session following those elections.