What could be called a Medicare brain trust made an appearance last week on Capitol Hill in the first in a series of roundtable discussions on Medicare physician payments and hosted by the Senate Committee on Finance.
In attendance were Gail R. Wilensky,PhD; Bruce C. Vladeck, PhD; Thomas Scully; and Mark McClellan, MD and PhD. Each has headed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or its predecessor, the Health Care Financing Administration.
In his opening statement Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who chairs the committee, said the idea was to "focus on where things stand now and how we got here." He was referring, of course, to that scourge of politicians and providers: the sustainable growth rate formula.
Congress and physicians are in a bit of panic right now because of the 27% cuts to physician payments that is slated to take effect in January 2013. In the old, pre-debt reduction days, Congress simply looked the other way as it voted to ignore the SGR for 10 years.
Now though it's becoming increasingly difficult for Congress to kick the SGR can down the road. Plus this is an election year, which puts Congress on the hotseat. It must resolve the longstanding issue without appearing to stick it to physician voters.
That brings us to the Medicare brain trust.