With the end of the year fast-approaching and the looming prospect of a 24 percent cut to Medicare physician payments on January 1, the House of Representatives has introduced a bill to delay the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) mechanism through the end of March.
A good piece in the Washington Post over the weekend takes a look at why Medicare physicians continue to use an expensive drug to help prevent blindness when what appears to be an equally-effective drug is available for a fraction of the price.
According to the article, Lucentis costs Medicare about $2,000 per injection. Avastin costs only around $50.
Earlier this year, we discussed how the prospects for a permanent fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate formula had improved given CBO's dramatic reduction in its estimate of the cost of a fix.
As the conferees met yesterday, any doubt that we can afford to wait on the long-term debt problem should have quickly been erased after CBO Director Doug Elmendorf's testimony to the conference committee. While the budget outlook has improved somewhat in the short term, little progress has been made on the long-term problem. And fixing the long term will likely require greater reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.
It's no secret that a significant portion of the federal budget is devoted to our national defense and insurance programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. As Ezra Klein wrote almost three years ago, the federal government can be thought of as essentially "an insurance conglomerate protected by a large, standing army." But the army's getting smaller too.
The Senate Finance and House Ways & Means Committees, last week, released a bipartisan, bicameral discussion draft of a proposal to permanently replace Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, which is set to cut physician payments by nearly 25 percent next year.
Yesterday, the Social Security Administration announced that beneficiaries will be receiving a 1.5 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) this year. Although this update is below the 1.7 percent increase provided this year and the 3.6 percent increase provided for 2012, it is reflective of the relatively low inflation experienced over the past year.
In an op-ed in POLITICO yesterday, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle argued that the upcoming conference committee was the perfect time to enact entitlement reforms. While conventional wisdom has suggested that a bigger deal involving reforms may seem to be elusive, Daschle suggested that there is more agreement between the two parties than meets the eye.
There are two major reasons why this decision makes sense now.
Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) dramatically lowered its estimate of savings if policymakers chose to increase the Medicare eligibility age from 65 today to match Social Security's full retirement age of 67. Last year, CBO estimated that increasing the age would generate $113 billion in savings over 10 years.