Congressional Democrats to AMA: Go Pound Sand

Here’s a completely unsurprising and predictable story.

Do you remember how many conservatives spent months trying to figure out why the leadership of the American Medical Association signed the nation’s doctors up in support of Obamacare? Many conservatives argued that the AMA was being shortsighted – that Congressional Democrats would ultimately betray the AMA, despite the powerful group’s consistent advocacy of the president’s health care rationing bill. We knew that the AMA had made a deal with the devil: they backed Pelosi and Reid only because they promised the ‘doc fix’ – permanent relief from huge reductions in Medicare reimbursements. We said that Democrats would use the AMA endorsement and then turn against the group when they had the chance.

Well, we were right:

‘Doc Fix’ Could Be Left Stranded as Health Care Overhaul Founders

Those who follow the long-running doctor payment saga say the poisoned atmosphere surrounding health care spending makes it difficult to see how Congress will agree to the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to make a permanent change in the payment formula. The Senate has rejected attempts to pay for the 10-year cost without offsets.

But there is also mounting pressure from the influential doctors and seniors lobbies to do something — and fast — out of fear that beneficiaries will lose access to care. Those who advocate a permanent fix point to the recent news that physicians at a Mayo Clinic family practice clinic in Glendale, Ariz., have decided to try opting out of Medicare.

Doctors who treat Medicare beneficiaries face a 21.2 percent cut in their payments, starting March 1…

“Clearly, for physicians, something needs to be done by March 1 or there’s a big problem,” said Julius W. Hobson Jr., a lobbyist at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP and a former director of congressional affairs for the American Medical Association (AMA).

The good news for the AMA is this: Congress has never let these cuts go into effect, and they’re unlikely to now. At worst, the doctors will probably see a one-year ‘patch’ for the cuts. It’s less than they want, and less than they bargained for. But they made a deal with a Congressional leadership that sees them as nothing more than a tool, so they’re lucky to get that much. Democrats have plenty of reasons not to give permanent relief from the cuts – not the least of which is that it will keep the AMA coming back for more help in the future.