Thursday, October 22, 2009


Hopes for Senate passage of a health care reform bill were further dented last night when the Democratic leadership’s proposal for eliminating the Medicare physician fee reductions required by the sustainable growth rate formula was soundly defeated.

A dozen Democrats and one independent senator joined Republicans in opposing the change proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which would have cost an estimated $247 billion over the next ten years. Backers of the change had hoped that it would be possible to treat the increased costs as a simple addition to the deficit, separate from other health care reform costs, but opponents refused to allow it without offsetting savings or increases in revenue.

The vote sends an ominous message to health care reform advocates: Democratic senators are unwilling to hang together behind their leadership just to facilitate the passage of reform. At the same time, since physician groups had considered passing the “doc fix” vital to their support of reform, it must be assumed that they will now shift more visibly into the opposition camp, making reform supporters’ efforts even more difficult.

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