End the 'doc fix' charade

Annual override of Medicare cut doesn't fix the problem of improving cost control—it merely postpones the crisis for another year

In an op-ed published yesterday by The Baltimore Sun, James Burdick, professor of surgery at the School of Medicine, writes that the recent fiscal cliff rescue included the usual "doc fix"—Congress' yearly override of the Medicare reimbursement cut required by the Sustainable Growth Rate law. The necessary budget correction required by the override seems to be funded by lowering hospital payments, which Burdick says could be bad for patients.

Congress' annual override of Medicare reimbursement cuts doesn't solve the problem, Burdick says, it only postpones the crisis for older patients for another year. As a result, we experience "annual medical mini-fiscal cliffs." What is needed is a more permanent solution for improving cost control. More from The Sun:

With the Affordable Care Act's emphasis on clinical quality, doctors in the American Medical Association, American College of Surgeons, the American Board of Internal Medicine and other medical associations have begun to show that realistic cost control can be provided by improving clinical decisions. Through providing the right care and eliminating unnecessary care, doctors can have reliable, relatively realistic incomes; Congress will realize savings; and we can heave a final sigh of relief upon the demise of this annual charade.

Read more from The Baltimore Sun