However, as the budget deficit has become a huge political issue, the six lawmakers on the bipartisan “super Committee” charged with finding a budget resolution are likely to give the proposal more consideration. Unless some action is taken on Jan. 1, 2012, Medicare payment rates for physicians will drop by 29.4%.
Pollack says AHA has supported the repeal of the SGR, but not if it meant reimbursement cuts to hospitals to make up the difference. “From our perspective, this is robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Pollack says. “We employ a lot of physicians and we want to see this fee problem fixed, but we don’t think it is productive to cut one provider to fix another provider’s problem. We have a stake in this as well.”
As for raising the Medicare eligibility age, Pollack says he is not overly concerned with any blowback for hospitals because that idea has already been floated by House Republicans and, however briefly, by President Obama.
“On the retirement age, things get boiled down into sound bites,” he says. “If you look at that option in particular, from our perspective you have to be thoughtful about it. We always assumed that if you looked at this option you had to have health exchanges in place so that those people who are between the new Medicare eligibility age and the old one would get access to coverage through exchanges. For those of limited means, that would be subsidized.”
Pollack says AHA also has acknowledged that some exceptions would have to be built into raising the Medicare eligibility age. “Not everyone can work past 65. For people that have physical limitations by virtue of the work they have done as opposed to people who do desk work, you have to have exceptions,” he says. “None of that is really fleshed out. That is the way we would view that option.”