Thursday, October 22, 2009

There is no deal between the AMA and Obama, and "doctor's fix" does not count as part of health reform cost!

A few days ago the media started piping about the "doctor's fix" - Democrats have promised to cancel a plan to cut the fees that Medicare pays doctors by 21%. The cuts were scheduled for this January. The Washington Post claimed that the cancellation is planned to be passed separately from the reform bill so that Obama can hold up a fake promise of the reform not adding deficits to the budget. In exchange for this cancellation, Obama gains support from the AMA without breaking his promise. Over a ten-year period this “doctor’s fix” will cost $247 billion.

Now please read carefully - the above claim by the Washington Post (which has published more misleading, unsubstantiated articles of late) is false. Here, Maggie Mahar explained, very clearly, why.

With a little bit of digging, the Washington Post would have known that these proposed Medicare cuts were never actually performed even though they have always been budgeted in falsely during the Bush administration, simply because it is impossible to do. Part of the current problems with health care is that our current reimbursements are illogical, with important fields like primary care and palliative care underpaid, while other fields are overpaid. Blindly cutting reimbursements across the board is lazy and stupid - Problems with Medicare reimbursements are obviously complicated and require well thought-out, personalized, specific changes. If the Washington Post had done a little research, they would have known that suddenly accumulating all past unperformed cuts and execute it in one blow years later is a ridiculous idea, not to mention that Congress for all of those years never went through with it - why should they suddenly go through with a ridiculous idea at an even more ridiculous level (21%) now?

This makes me question - what type of irresponsible journalism led the Washington Post to make such false, inflammatory claim when a simple research would have shown that the claim is untrue?

More interestingly, watch this face-off between Maggie and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, and a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. You can decide for yourself who to believe, but for me, Maggie obviously read the bills and knew exactly what she's talking about. She provided specific quotes and numbers that can be easily checked - she told you exactly how to check them. Holtz-Eakin, on the other hand, reverted to same memorized sentences and refused to directly address Maggie's rebuttal, because he didn't seem to know the issues inside out and therefore could not draw on hard facts and numbers to counter Maggie's comments.

I also have to criticize Lou Dobbs for his comments on the senators not reading the bills. He's trying to be tough and put Maggie on the spot but, really, that point is not relevant to the debate at hand and it's not even worth shouting and yelling about. Obviously, senators can't read every bill when each is thousands of pages long, so of course they rely on their staff to digest the bills for them, so that they can make decisions about myriad of issues and actually function. That's called delegation, and irrelevant attacks just so you can be tough is, for lack of a better word, stupid.

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